Utah health officials told a legislative committee on Wednesday 80% of Utahns who want the coronavirus vaccine will be able to get a shot by the first week of June.
“According to our projections, if the manufacturers are able to produce the vaccine at the level they’ve promised, we will reach most of the adult population by the end of May or the first week of June if they want to be vaccinated,” said Dave Gessel, executive vice president of the Utah Hospitals Association.
“So, you’re promising that masks are coming off by June and we can all just open up and start acting normal again,” joked Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine.
Joking aside, Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, warned those rosy projections are completely dependent on the ability of manufacturers to produce vaccines as promised.
“Man, we’ve got our sights on figuring out when that is, because I’ll be the first to take this mask off and have a celebration,” said Saunders.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 339,000 doses of the vaccine had been delivered to Utah with 324,000 being administered so far. According to projections shared with committee members, Pfizer and Moderna had promised to deliver 100 million doses nationwide by March 31, which works out to 1.6 million doses coming to Utah. By June, those two manufacturers would deliver another 1.4 million doses here. Both of those vaccines require two doses 4 weeks apart.
A third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is expected to be available for emergency use soon, and officials expect another 840,000 doses to make their way to Utah by June. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is single dose, which means more people will be able to be protected from the virus in a shorter period of time.
Getting those vaccines out to the public will require a massive effort, which includes mass vaccination sites as well as distributing the vaccine to pharmacies and medical offices.
“We recognize this effort will take significant hands on deck,” said Heather Borski, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health.
On Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson plan to issue a call for volunteers to assist with the large scale efforts.
“When we receive the volume of vaccines we expect to in early March, we’ll need significantly more hands to help get shots in arms. We’ll be asking for volunteers to help with not only vaccinations, but with scheduling, data entry, traffic control and more,” said Henderson. “Utahns are exceptionally generous when it comes to volunteering, so we’ll release more detail in the coming weeks on how people can get involved.”
Health officials say the single-dose vaccine will help inoculate populations that may find it difficult to access a second dose. That includes the homeless or those who may not be able to get off work.
Health officials also announced Associated Foods stores will be offering the vaccine through their pharmacies, joining Smiths and Walmart as distribution hubs.