To get coronavirus vaccine booster shots, most Utahns probably will be scheduling shots with pharmacies and doctors.
With eight-month boosters expected to be approved soon for most people who have received coronavirus vaccines, Utah is planning for another round of statewide shots.
But this time it probably won’t involve as many lines of cars approaching tents in parking lots.
“I don’t believe there is any sort of intention to go back to the mass-vaccination-only model,” said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health.
Instead, it’s more likely local health departments will dispense boosters at existing clinics — and a lot of patients will go to their pharmacies or doctors.
“Right now, pharmacies are giving the most” initial vaccinations, said David Heaton, spokesman for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.
The same is true in Salt Lake County, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the health department there. “Pharmacies are now the largest provider by far,” Rupp said.
“We are still evaluating distribution for the booster but expect pharmacies and health care providers to play a major role,” he said, “because, unlike earlier in the year when vaccine first became available, we are not the only option out there.”
The Food and Drug Administration already has approved third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain immunocompromised people, and the Biden administration has urged the FDA to conclude its review in time to begin distributing boosters to others by Sept. 20.
Adults would be able to receive their boosters eight months after they became fully vaccinated.
So far, Heaton said, “we haven’t seen huge demand” for boosters from eligible immunocompromised adults.
“As soon as the booster efforts begin, we’ll certainly step up our communication efforts to make sure people know boosters are available and what they should do, where they should go,” Hudachko said.
It’s likely that most Utahns, who live in the major population centers along the Wasatch Front, will get boosters from pharmacies or other providers, Hudachko said. In Southwest Utah, for example, health officials plan to dispense boosters at the regular clinics they offer in their five offices around the region.
Some rural departments may set up special booster events or clinics, especially in conjunction with their normal flu shot clinics, Hudachko said.
But at the TriCounty Health Department, whose northeast Utah communities have some of the state’s lowest vaccination rates, health officials are waiting for FDA authorization before they plan booster distribution.
“We’re waiting,” said Liberty Best, the department’s spokesperson.