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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

‘Luck Of The Draw’ Seniors Vying For Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments In Southwest Utah

A photo of people going into the Southwest Utah Public Health Department office in St. George.
Lexi Peery
People going into the Southwest Utah Public Health Department office in St. George.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments are filling up in a matter of minutes in southwest Utah, and that’s left many senior residents frustrated.

The region has around 35,000 people 70 years of age and older, according to Dave Heaton, a spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. Vaccine appointments usually go live at 9 a.m. on Mondays for seniors, along with frontline workers and teachers.

Elaine Cottam Stephens was waiting online to get one for her husband in Iron County Monday. Stephens works at a grocery store and is in her 60s, but is concerned about her husband, who is over 70 and has various health conditions.

She said she watched all the vaccine appointments fill up in a minute or two.

“It's kind of like the luck of the draw, if you're lucky to get in that first minute and get a slot,” she said. “I've heard people getting in, but we're just not one of those lucky people.”

Jeanie Lesh wasn’t able to sign up to get vaccinated either. But she still found a way to get the vaccine in Washington County — she heard from a friend of a friend about extra doses being available.

But now she said she’s worried how it will be getting her second dose.

“I can't see how this is ever going to be done,” Lesh said. “If they can't even get all the 70-year-olds done, how are they gonna ... I mean, this is going to take a year.”

Brittney Rivers is 46-years-old and said she was able to snag an appointment for her mother-in-law, who Rivers said isn’t able to navigate a computer very quickly. She was trying to get appointments for other family members in the region, but was only able to get the one.

“I can't imagine a senior trying to do it by themselves,” Rivers said. “I feel their frustration. I felt it [on Monday], like refresh, refresh, refresh, they're gone.”

Earlier this month, the department’s website had issues crashing, and Heaton said they recently moved over to the state’s server, which makes signing up easier. But there are a limited number of slots. Heaton said the department is only getting about 2,000 doses a week.

He said health department officials empathize with those who are frustrated.

“We're just hoping that people hang on with it,” he said. “People were so excited when the vaccines came out, but it's been a trickle rather than a flow.”

Heaton said they’re hopeful the process will become easier as supplies at the federal and state levels increase.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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