Cox declares 70% of Utah adults received a COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4 — once you do the math

The state health department’s figures don’t include doses given out by federal agencies, Cox wrote in a celebratory Twitter thread.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox answers questions during the governor's COVID-19 briefing at the Utah Capitol on Thursday, July 1, 2021.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declared a statistical victory in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic — by saying Tuesday that 70% of Utah’s adult population had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the Fourth of July.

Getting there, though, required some explanation and isn’t entirely reflected on the Utah Department of Health’s public data website.

Cox, in a tweet thread posted Tuesday morning, wrote that UDOH had reported 65.2% of Utahns 18 or older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — a total of 1,482,091 who had received at least one dose.

However, Cox wrote, that doesn’t include doses administered by federal agencies — specifically, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, federal corrections facilities or Indian Health Services. Those agencies account for another 114,908 doses to adults in Utah, he wrote.

Add the federal tally to the state’s data, Cox said, and you get 1,596,999 adults in Utah who have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Divide that by the number of Utah adults — 2,274,774, according to Cox’s tweet — and you come to a total vaccination rate of 70.2%.

“This is truly a milestone worth celebrating!” Cox wrote in one of the 20 tweets in his Tuesday thread.

However, Cox added, “we’re not out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over.”

Cox said he is “still very concerned about the recent rise in cases and hospitalizations.” He also noted that some parts of Utah, “including many of our rural areas and communities of color,” are still below the 70% mark.

The percentage of Utahns who are eligible to be vaccinated who have received a dose, according to UDOH, is 61.4% as of Tuesday. That factors in children ages 12-17, who are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. That group has one of the lowest rates of getting the vaccine; according to UDOH, only 36.5% of Utahns between 12 and 18 have received at least one dose.

Not quite half of Utah’s entire population — 49.6% — has received at least one dose of a vaccine, UDOH’s data showed as of Tuesday. That includes children 11 and under, who are not eligible to be vaccinated yet. And Utah, it is often noted, has a larger population of children, 29% according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, than the national average of 22.3%.

Utah’s goal of a 70% vaccination rate by Independence Day mirrored the pledge made in May by President Joe Biden to hit the same rate nationwide. On Sunday, July 4, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said only 67% of adults nationwide had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s nothing magical about that 70% threshold,” Cox said Thursday at his COVID-19 media briefing, where he first mentioned adding the federal data to the state’s numbers. “We would rather have 99%, 100% of adults in Utah vaccinated, because that’s how we’re going to reduce deaths and reduce hospitalizations.”