Media tour of new COVID-19 vaccination facility in Spanish Fork 15

Community members wait in line to be vaccinated at a mass vaccination center erected inside the former Shopko building in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Isaac Hale, Special to the Daily Herald

On Thursday during his monthly press conference, Gov. Spencer Cox announced that Utahns 65 and older would immediately be made eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The previous target date for those 65 and older, along with those who have specific underlying health conditions, was originally set to be March 1.

While Cox’s announcement did drop the eligible age range to 65 and older, the date remains March 1 for those with underlying health conditions.

“We have made incredible progress over the last month and especially over the past week when it comes to vaccinating all of Utah’s adults age 70 and over,” Cox said during the press conference. “In fact, as of this morning (Thursday), we have vaccinated approximately 62% of those that are 70 and over with their first doses.”

As weekly allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine continue to increase for the state, counties are beginning to reach the end of vaccinating those age 70 and older who want to be vaccinated.

While each county is different and some have more doses than others, Cox encouraged patience, adding that everyone who wants a vaccine will receive one.

“We always want demand to outpace supply,” Cox said. “That is how we make sure that every vaccine is being used and that we always have vaccines in arms instead of on shelves.”

State and local health departments have been keeping Cox in the loop, according to Utah County Health Department PIO Aislynn Tolman-Hill, and many counties are seeing that slowdown in demand.

This has been seen in Utah County as well, where vaccination appointments have not been filling up as quickly as they were previously, causing some concern for officials. That is why this quick change will be a good one for Utah County.

“This change is very much welcomed,” Tolman-Hill said. “We were really kind of concerned about if that date for 65 and older was to stay at March 1 and what our clinics would continue to look like. It’s very much welcomed, we’re excited and ready to roll.”

The county health department did have some time to prepare for the change and was able to push the messaging out to the community about the governor’s announcement, which led to roughly 1,200 to 1,300 available slots being filled in 20 minutes or less, according to Tolman-Hill.

This demand is anticipated to spike going forward.

“We do anticipate it will be in this high level of demand with the 65 and older until March 1,” Tolman-Hill said. “Then as we add in the comorbidities starting on March 1, we will still be in that high level of demand for quite some time.”

Previously, the Utah County Health Department’s website had trouble handling the traffic when the 70 and older population was made eligible, but Tolman-Hill said the website, database and more were checked before the increase in demand. As a result, the website did not have any problems handling the increased traffic.

To find out more about the vaccine and who is eligible, visit coronavirus.utah.gov or the Utah County Health Department’s website at health.utahcounty.gov

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