Gov. Spencer Cox has announced that Utahns age 70 or older will become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, Jan. 18.
But becoming eligible does not guarantee seniors an immediate inoculation.
For example, the Salt Lake County Health Department and others are bluntly warning vaccine seekers: “We will not schedule appointments for vaccine doses we do not have.”
All of Salt Lake County’s existing doses are reserved for health care workers and first responders, the department’s website explains. It suggests that county residents check back on the site after 8 a.m. Wednesday to schedule available appointments for Jan. 19 to 23.
For now, Utahns around the state should look to the 13 local health districts for access to doses, Cox told The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board Monday.
“One of the changes in vaccine distribution that I implemented on Day One was giving more authority to our local health departments,” said the new governor, who has promised to speed up vaccination distribution.
Since vaccinations are one of the traditional duties of the local departments, he said, “they have the infrastructure in place, they have the reporting mechanisms in place, it’s what they do best.”
In a new guideline issued Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all 50 states expand access to COVID-19 vaccine to everyone 65 and older. Cox last week had dropped the state’s age limit to 70, after previous Gov. Gary Herbert had said age-based vaccinations would begin with residents over 75.
Cox’s Unified Command team will discuss the new CDC recommendation at its meeting Wednesday, said spokeswoman Jennifer Napier-Pearce.
By distributing vaccines based on geography, Cox said Monday, “we can hold every one of [the local health departments] accountable. ... We can drill down, find out what’s going wrong. We now have instituted weekly coordination calls, on vaccines, with every vaccine partner, and that will help us to hold them accountable”.
He added: “If you are not vaccinating at a high enough rate, we will take your vaccines away and give them to those that are vaccinating at a higher rate.”
The Salt Lake County Health Department received “several hundred” calls on Monday from residents inquiring about vaccines, according to a spokesman. The average wait time for callers was less than five minutes, he said, and the longest wait was 13 minutes.
Here is a list of Utah’s health districts and what their websites said as of Tuesday about appointments for Utahns age 70 and older:
Salt Lake County • Check the department’s website after 8 a.m. on Wednesday for appointments available Jan. 19 to 23.
Utah County • Available appointments are taken, but you can sign up for text alerts by texting UCHEALTH to 888777 and can check the department’s website frequently.
Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich counties) • A clinic planned for Thursday at the Cache County Fairgrounds Event Center is full, but check the department’s webpage often for updates.
Weber-Morgan • Eligible residents can register online to be notified when vaccines become available.
Davis County • Check the department’s website Friday for appointments.
Tooele County • Eligible residents can call the health department at 435-277-2484 to make a vaccination appointment.
Summit County • Eligible residents can register online to receive a vaccine. You will be notified via email when appointment scheduling begins.
Wasatch County • Eligible residents can call 435-657-3276 to make an appointment.
TriCounty (Daggett, Duchesne, Uintah counties) • The health department has no information about how to make appointments to get vaccines on its website. Call the Vernal office at 435-247-1177; call the Roosevelt office at 435-722-6300.
Central Utah (Juab, Millard, Piute, Sevier, Wayne, Sanpete counties) • Eligible residents can register here.
Southwest Utah (Garfield, Iron, Kane, Washington, Beaver counties) • Eligible residents can begin registering for appointments online on Monday.
San Juan County • The county health department’s website is down. Eligible residents can contact the department by calling 435-359-0038.