Summit County Health Director Bullough On Prospects For Covid Vaccine

Oct 12, 2020

Summit County’s Health Director says he expects a COVID-19 vaccine will appear toward the end of the year.

But he says it will be several months after that before it’s available to the general public.     The vaccine was a major topic during last week’s Conversation With Council.

Health Director Rich Bullough said that when a vaccine is ready, it will be released in stages, beginning with the segments of the population having the highest risk.

He said vaccinations, first off, will go to senior citizens in nursing homes, and then to the elderly population in general.

Bullough said that vaccinations won’t likely go to a wider population until the warmer months next year.        

“What we’re being told is probably somewhere around April, May, we’ll begin to receive larger numbers of vaccines, and actually begin to vaccinate the general population.  The timeline that I have set for when I expect this to be in full swing is mid-summer.   Unfortunately, it’s gonna be a little while before you can convene safely.  And obviously, with the outcomes associated with older adults and COVID-19, it certainly is wise to be cautious.”

He said the population still has to be careful until a lot of people are vaccinated.

Bullough said the future of the vaccine will probably come in two phases.      

“The first front is this first wave, where we’re trying to build some significant amount of herd immunity.   It’s important that the vaccine’s effective, safe, and that people receive it.   And so we’re gonna have campaigns far and wide.  Not just Summit County, but state and national campaigns to encourage the vaccinations.   It’s very, very important that a majority of Americans receive this.”

The next phase, though, might be longer-term.     

“There is a possibility, if not a probability, that this is gonna become an annual issue.   Because, remember, they still don’t know how long the anti-bodies will last.  And so, longer term it may be that we’re having similar conversations about Covid to what we now have about other annual illnesses, like influenza.  That’s yet to be determined.  But the big goal this year is to reach some level of herd immunity, hopefully by mid-summer.”

On a related topic, Bullough said the Park City School District has been doing a good job monitoring the opening of classes.   He said their information is more current than the state.      

“And so right now, if you go to the Park City data, Park City School District data, and then you go to the state, and you look by district, the state is reporting more cases than is the Park City School District.  And the reason for that is because the state is reporting an aggregate number over the last two weeks.  The District is more interested in tracking active cases.   And so there’s a discrepancy there.”

He expressed confidence in the credibility of the schools.       

“What I can share with the community, though, is that I have absolutely no reason to believe that there is any sort of manipulation on the part of the Districts.   I believe that they are all over this.  They’re monitoring quarantines, active cases, new cases.  They’re trending people off after they’ve recovered.  So I’ve been very, very impressed.”

In the meantime, Bullough said that all observers expect an increase in cases as cold weather arrives, and people move indoors.    He urged residents to continue wearing masks, maintaining social distance—and to get their flu shots this season.