Covid19 News

Utah demand for COVID-19 vaccine is ‘off the charts,’ as seekers overwhelm Salt Lake

County mayor apologizes for failure of health department’s website.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Davis County School District began COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations for its teachers at the Davis County Legacy Center in Farmington on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Utahns ran into issues as they tried to sign up online to be vaccinated in Salt Lake County on Wednesday, when county residents ages 70 and older could begin booking appointments.

As seniors began to schedule their coronavirus vaccinations in a chaotic first day of registrations around the state, one pattern emerged: Demand for the vaccine is high.

Salt Lake County filled all 25,000 of its appointments within hours of opening them to residents ages 70 and up — even after technical glitches crashed both the registration website and the county’s entire phone system on Wednesday morning.

“Anyone who was attempting to get on this morning to get one of those prized appointments — they were frustrated,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a news conference Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of people visited the county’s vaccine registration website when it launched at 8 a.m., Wilson said, overloading the system — which already had last-minute capacity issues.

Federal officials late Tuesday authorized states to release more of the vaccine immediately, rather than saving follow-up doses for those who already have received one of the two required shots. That new supply led county officials to expand the scheduling window, which burdened the website beyond what had been planned when it was created, said Gary Edwards, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Then residents proved to be surprisingly prepared to rush the site; there were many reports of people enlisting friends and family to visit the website simultaneously when it launched, hoping for a better chance at one of the coveted slots.

“We underestimated [the number of] multiple attempts within a family unit,” Wilson said.

Once the website was overwhelmed, residents took to the scheduling hotline — 1-800-468-SHOT — which filled up the county’s CenturyLink allocation and caused the county’s phone system to crash as well, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the health department.

Around the state, “the demand is off the charts,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said in a Facebook Live session with The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday afternoon.

As of Wednesday morning, multiple local health departments had filled all available vaccine appointments for seniors. The Bear River Health Department website reported that it was hosting its first clinic for patients age 70 and up on Thursday — it is using some extra doses provided by an area hospital to start vaccinating seniors before the Jan. 18 start date announced by the state — but the clinic was full and the department was not planning to announce more vaccination dates on Wednesday.

Utah County’s website reported it would begin scheduling vaccinations for patients age 70 and up until 6 p.m. Wednesday — but below that announcement was a link to 70-and-up vaccine clinics already happening Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, all of which were full. The Southeast Utah Health Department posted a link to a vaccine scheduler, which reported all appointments had been filled as of Wednesday morning.

For those having trouble getting a vaccination appointment, Dunn advised, “Don’t panic,” and keep pursuing appointments through local health districts. As more doses arrives, she said, “you will get a vaccine.”

Salt Lake County filled all appointments through February, accounting for all 30,000 of the doses federal and state authorities have said it will receive for now. Of those, 25,000 are going to seniors over age 69 and 5,000 remain for health care workers who have yet to receive a shot.

But the county could get more vaccine as manufacturing ramps up, Edwards said. Residents ages 70 and up who did not secure an appointment on Wednesday should visit the website or call each week, to learn whether appointments have opened up.

Appointments were taking place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. The seemingly short window was still enough to use each expected dose within a week of its arrival in Utah, Edwards said, and it allows the county to easily add slots to each day if the clinics receive more than expected on any given week.

The overwhelming demand among Utahns ages 70 and up may nullify pending questions as to whether the state will immediately offer the vaccine to anyone younger. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday advised states to open vaccinations to anyone age 65 and older, to ensure all available doses were being used.

Gov. Spencer Cox’s office on Tuesday said he planned to decide by Wednesday night whether to expand availability in Utah, but on…

Source Website Utah demand for COVID-19 vaccine is ‘off the charts,’ as seekers overwhelm Salt Lake

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