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Lt. Governor Henderson Says Utah to Push for More Vaccine Doses From Biden Administration

Sean Higgins

The Utah Department of Health says over 222,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Saturday, but state officials will be making their case to the new Biden Administration for more doses in Utah. KPCW’s Sean Higgins spoke with Utah Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson and has this:


With nearly a quarter-million doses of COVID-19 vaccine reported to be administered statewide, Utah officials will be making a case to the federal government for more vaccines to be shipped to the state.


Utah Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson was at the Summit County vaccination center in Park City on Friday to speak with county health department officials about their needs and what the state can do to help. She says the problem with the vaccine rollout right now is there simply are not enough doses available on a weekly basis.


“The bottleneck is the manufacturers, right?” Henderson says. “We have to get enough manufactured and then we have to plead our case with our federal partners to get our doses each week. Right now, we’re getting about 33,000 doses every week and if we can show that we’re exhausting those doses within a few days of getting them, then we’ll be better positioned to ask for more. They’re also giving people doses based on the age of their population.”


Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough says the county usually receives between 300-500 doses per week, but the county’s demand far outweighs the supply. He says the issue is the large number of workers in the county that don’t have resident status. 


The number of vaccines distributed by the state each week takes into account census population. Many of the county’s workers and part-time residents are not factored into those numbers, but Bullough says the process is constantly changing.  


“The first sort is by population -- census population -- which is not representative of who we have here and so that’s been part of our issue,” says Bullough. “We’ve actually, fully a third of our vaccines so far have been non-residents, but they’ve been people who work here and they’re not people we want to turn away, so we have instantly a shortfall. And then, the process of the actual request is a partnership with health officers where we, pretty much on a daily basis with the vaccine person at the state, Rich Lakin, talk about availability, distribution, who can move vaccines, so it ebbs and flows.”


Governor Spencer Cox mandated earlier this month that all vaccination facilities use their doses within one week of receiving them. Henderson says if the state can show they are depleting their shipments each week, they are more likely to receive a higher number from the federal government.


She adds the changeover to the Biden Administration in Washington DC has left the near future a little unknown but the state is expecting new federal vaccination directions soon. 


“We’ve got the new Biden Administration and we’ll be getting more guidelines,” she says. “Things are a little bit uncertain right now just because new people are coming in and are changing their processes, so we’re just kind of waiting to see what that looks like. In the meantime, our message to our local health departments is please get 100% of the vaccines in arms within seven days, faster if you can.”


President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic during his first days in office, including setting a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days of his administration.