To help make COVID-19 vaccination more convenient, Utah no longer requires providers to use it within a week

Gov. Spencer Cox’s office says it expects the rate of vaccinations to slow and doesn’t want to ‘penalize providers for taking longer to use doses.’

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carlos Salazar receives his first dose of the Moderna vaccine as the Salt Lake County Health Department in collaboration with Clinica de Salud EZ offers a COVID-19 vaccination clinic to the Hispanic community at 339 East 3900 South in Salt Lake City, on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines declines in Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox has removed the requirement that providers use all first doses of the vaccine within seven days of receiving them.

The governor’s office said that rule — which was implemented through executive order early this year in an effort to speed up the state’s vaccination efforts and ensure doses weren’t going to waste — was no longer necessary, as the state enters a new phase of distribution.

“Early on in our vaccine distribution, we prioritized speed and large numbers to make as many doses available to high-volume vaccination sites,” the office said in a news release. “Now, with a more targeted approach to increase the convenience of vaccines for communities, businesses and organizations, we expect the rate of vaccinations to slow down and don’t want to penalize providers for taking longer to use doses.”

Under the new executive order, signed Thursday, vaccine providers are still required to report to the state the number of vaccines administered each day and the number of doses on hand, and they may receive reduced supply if they don’t comply.

They must also establish procedures to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to people from marginalized communities.

Cox said in his weekly newsletter Friday that around 41% of Asian adults in Utah, 34% of Hispanic adults, 23% of Black adults and 23% of the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander community had received at least one dose of the vaccine. And he encouraged community groups, businesses and places of worship across the state to request a mobile vaccination clinic in an effort to inoculate groups that haven’t yet received their doses.

Local health departments and other vaccine providers around the state have been seeing a decline in demand for vaccines, with thousands of appointments in Utah left unfilled at the end of last month. One of the most significant gaps has been among younger Utahns.

As of Friday, providers had administered more than 2,242,271 vaccine doses, and more than 1 million Utahns have been fully immunized against the coronavirus.

Some 41.6% of all of the state’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose — but that’s a far cry from the 75% to 90% coverage that epidemiologists say would be needed for herd immunity, which occurs when enough people have immunity from the virus to stop its uncontrolled spread.

The New York Times reported this week that as daily vaccination rates slip nationwide, experts believe it is increasingly unlikely that the country will achieve herd immunity, at least in the foreseeable future.