Summit County Health Director Answers Questions About COVID-19 Vaccine
Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough is confident that the local supply of COVID vaccine is going to improve And he sees the county moving soon to the priority population of residents 70 years and older.
During a Conversation With Council held last week, county officials said they’ve been frustrated with the scarcity of vaccines. But Summit County’s health district is third in the state for the number of vaccinations per capita.
Bullough said that as of the middle of last week, they had received 2,200 doses. Nearly 1,900 of those have been administered and the county was on track to deliver the rest by the end of the week.
First doses of the vaccine are being given at Utah Film Studios in Park City. Bullough said all the first doses are being given within seven days after they’re received. It’s not true, he said, that the County is stockpiling vaccine.
Second doses are being handled at the Park City Hospital.
Bullough also said that last Friday was the last day to register for members of the first priority Groups set by the state — non-medical hospital workers, first responders and teachers.
At the same time, they will be busy, well into February, with members of those groups who are registered and will be scheduled for vaccinations.
But now, Bullough said, the next priority group to register are those 70 years or older. He said there are about 3,500 Summit County residents in that sector. They will likely be vaccinated well into March, with the first priority being the seniors who have preexisting conditions.
Bullough said they have been receiving between 400 and 500 doses a week. But for this week, they secured a one-time larger shipment of 900 doses.
“We’ve been fighting, and literally fighting, arguing to try to get more vaccines here. And we’ve had success. We began by being allocated 300 doses a week. It grew to 400. The last couple of shipments have been 500. Actually, fairly incredibly, Monday we will receive 900 doses. That is an enormous jump, but it’s a one-time jump. We anticipate moving forward, that we should receive somewhere in the ballpark of about 700 doses per week. And then that will gradually ramp up.”
Bullough and other county staff fielded a number of questions. Among those, he acknowledged that the Utah Film Studio has been vaccinating employees who are not Summit County residents. That’s a policy that was set by the state.
“If they worked in our county, we vaccinated them. We ran some data recently, and in fact, Summit County has benefited from that policy. More persons that live in Summit County have been vaccinated in other counties, than the other way around. So we have actually benefited from that policy. That’s the rest of the story.”
He was also asked why teachers were prioritized ahead of the 70-plus population.
“And it was debated. If you look at the data, the higher-risk population is absolutely the 70-plus. The desire to keep schools in a situation where they could provide in-person learning—and that has been a priority in the state of Utah from the start—is what drove the decision to vaccinate teachers, teachers and school staff. And that decision was made statewide.”
Another senior who called in said she’d had difficulty with registering online.
Bullough said it’s a fact of life that the system is run by email. But residents who need help can call the County Hot Line at 435-333-0050.
The caller also asked why so much personal information is required.
“As with any vaccine, there is potential risk in receiving a vaccine. Some people are having a reaction. This is a very safe vaccine. The rate of reaction isn’t greater than many other vaccines. But we have had, to my knowledge, about a handful of individuals who’ve been identified, some of them less than 70 years old, that have identified pre-existing conditions and a medical history that puts them at greater risk.”