Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough is happy about the recent good news he’s been able to report.
He says the county’s Covid incidence rate has plummeted. The county has received some large vaccine shipments. And they’re making progress in vaccinating their over-70 population.
But he said precautions are still necessary.
During his regular update with KPCW, Bullough said that, of the vaccine appointments his department are setting up, 70 to 75 percent are now for the 70-and-older population. And they’re getting closer to the point where all their focus will be on that sector.
He added that by the end of this week, they can say about half of the over-70 residents in the county have received their first dose. And meanwhile, some residents have gotten shots in other areas—including Wendover, which Bullough said doesn’t require residency.
Vaccinations for that population will continue into next month. But Bullough is hoping that in about a week, they will have all of the over-70’s scheduled.
“If you’re 70-plus, and you haven’t received an e-mail to be able to actually go in and register, you will next week. And so by the end of next week, we hope to have appointments for everybody, 70-plus. Those appointments, though, will continue into March, again, because our demand—it’s a nice problem to have. I understand that it creates some frustration on the part of the individuals waiting to be vaccinated. But the reason that we’re having this shortage, despite the fact we’re getting more doses, is because the demand is extremely high. And that is great. That puts us in a really good position, as we move into summer and fall, to get back to some semblance of normalcy as a community, because our vaccine uptake, we believe, will be quite high.”
He’s been happy about recent vaccine shipments. On Feb. 1st, the county got 900 doses. And on the 8th, they received a thousand. That’s because they were able to shift some supplies from other areas of the state.
“And so there’s been a really significant shortfall of vaccines in Summit County. And unlike some counties, we’ve got a huge demand. Our, the individuals living here in Summit County want the vaccine. And so our appointments are being booked out well ahead of time. And every morning the health officers, all 13 of us across the state, get on the phone, and we talk about vaccines, talk about what health districts might have some extra doses, because they don’t have the demand that we have, for example.”
He said the situation will soon change, because of shortages in Salt Lake County and the St. George area. He’s expecting just 600 doses next week, but that amount will increase the following week.
Bullough said in a couple of weeks, the state will begin to cover a segment of the under-70 population.
“The governor did announce last week that we will be moving to include on March 1st, 65 to 69, that include real severe conditions, like uncontrolled diabetes, organ failure, immuno-compromised due to cancer treatment, those kinds of things.”
Bullough also said it will be a while before we see the widespread availability of vaccines in pharmacies.
“But the state is basically priming the pump, by delivering small numbers of doses, about 100, for a pharmacy, for example. It allows them to test their system, make sure they have the capacity. So it’s gonna be a while. And in fact, we, at this point in time, are not certain that this first roll-out in the pharmacies, is even gonna occur in Summit County. Wal-Mart, for example, in Summit County, is not on the list for that roll-out.”
He said the state of Utah is expecting 250,000 doses a week by the end of March. Of that amount, 120,000 will be going to local health departments, and 130,000 to other venues such as hospitals and pharmacies.
Finally, he said that even when people have been vaccinated—with both doses-- they still need to wear masks, socially distance, and take other precautions.
“The current vaccine’s really effective, but they’re not 100 percent effective. And there’s some evidence that they’re not as effective for the variants that we’re hearing about. And so we are still recommending, CDC is still recommending that you behave as if you’ve not been vaccinated. It is important to understand also that the data are not completely clear that being vaccinated prevents you from spreading the disease. It’s very clear that it’s effective in preventing you from getting sick. But you may still be spreading the disease. And those data are not clear yet.”
Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough. When asked about the U.K. variant of Covid, he said although it has appeared in Utah, and Summit County, it has not created a surge. Still, people shouldn’t take it for granted.