Medical experts urge eligible Utahns to get a COVID-19 booster shot

11 more Utahs died of the coronavirus, the state Health Department reported Tuesday.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Syringes for Utah County residents to get their COVID-19 vaccinations in a former Shopko store in Spanish Fork, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

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Medical experts at University of Utah Health are urging Utahns 65 and older to get a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — if it has been at least six months since they received their second dose of Pfizer.

The booster recommendation is specific to those who received the Pfizer vaccine more than six months ago, Utah health experts advised Tuesday. Individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccine are not advised to receive a Pfizer booster.

Those 65-plus are considered “most vulnerable” to the coronavirus, said Dr. Mark A. Supiano, U. of U. Health geriatrics division chief. They also are the group that is most vaccinated for the coronavirus in the state, with 85.2% of those 65 and older fully inoculated.

Still, Supiano and other health experts during a Tuesday discussion advised that antibody levels may have waned in the last six or more months for individuals 65-plus who have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year. Supiano said such individuals should consider themselves to be “no longer protected against COVID — particularly with this much more contagious delta variant.”

“We can’t afford to wait, because it’s pretty clear that the third dose will provide additional protection,” U. of U. Health infectious diseases division chief Sankar Swaminathan said during the Tuesday discussion.

The Utah Department of Health on Monday reported another 1,264 Utahns tested positive for the coronavirus in the past day. The Health Department also reported 11 more deaths. Of the 11 Utahns who died of COVID-19 in the past day, seven were under the age of 65, and one was under the age of 45.

Supiano said he believes annual COVID vaccines, like annual flu shots, will “become the norm.”

Booster eligibility

No prescription is required for a Pfizer booster shot, Supiano said. You don’t need to contact your physician. You don’t need to make an appointment, though Supiano recommended it — either through your local health department of pharmacy. You also don’t need a computer, he said.

“You can just call them and ask them, what’s a good time to come? Or you can just show up, if you don’t mind waiting a little bit,” he said. “And it’s free.”

You can find out where to get a booster by going to vaccines.gov or calling 1-800-232-0233.

People younger than 65 who have conditions that heighten COVID-19 risk — including diabetes, high blood pressure and moderate to severe asthma — also are urged to receive a Pfizer booster, if such individuals received a second Pfizer dose more than six months ago, experts said.

Regardless of age, a booster is recommended for anyone vaccinated with Pfizer more than six months ago who lives or works in a “high-risk” situation, including teachers and customer service employees, experts said.

Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 267 of the new cases announced Monday, according to the state Health Department. There were 123 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 56 cases in children 11-13; and 88 cases in children 14-18.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests stands at 1,395 per day.

In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 6.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a Health Department analysis. The unvaccinated also were 7.2 times more likely to be hospitalized and 6.4 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

An additional 2,284 Utahns were fully vaccinated in the past day. bringing the total to 1,697,975 — 51.9% of Utah’s total population. 1,695,691

Vaccine doses administered in past day/total doses administered • 8,251 / 3,515,582.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,697,975.

Cases reported in past day • 1,264.

Deaths reported in past day • Eleven.

Two Salt Lake County residents died — a man between the ages of 45-64, and a man 85-plus.

Tooele County also reported two deaths — a man 45-64, and a woman 65-84. There were also two deaths in Utah County — a woman 25-44, and a man 45-64. And two deaths in Washington County — a woman 45-64, and a woman 85-plus.

Three counties each reported a single death — a woman 45-64 in Box Elder County; a man 65-84 in Davis County; and a woman 45-64 in Duchesne County.

Tests reported in past day • 8,475 people were tested for the first time. A total of 18,029 people were tested.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 546. That’s seven more than reported on Monday. Of those currently hospitalized, 223 are in intensive care — eight more than Monday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 14.9% over the past day. That’s lower than the seven-day average of 15.4%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Tuesday’s rate was 7%, lower than the seven-day average of 10.2%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Totals to date • 514,773 cases; 2,962 deaths; 22,455 hospitalizations; 3,494,024 people tested.