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Health, Science & Environment

Health Departments Unused Vaccine Appointments Start To Pick Up With Changing Eligibility

doctor holding bottle vial of covid-19 vaccine injection vaccination immunization anti coronavirus disease
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Some local health departments have reported vaccine appointments going unfilled, owed in part to the increased number of providers offering shots.

Utah is one of the more efficient states at using up its supply of COVID-19 doses. An analysis from the New York Times placed the state 7th in the country for using about 85% of its allotment.

Still, the rollout hasn’t been without delays and hiccups. Last week, hundreds of vaccine appointments went unfilled in Utah County.

Aislynn Tolman-Hill, public information officer with the health department, said sign-ups have been slowing down because most people eligible at that point had already gotten vaccinated. If they hadn’t, they might be hesitant about getting the vaccine or could be temporarily disqualified because they contracted COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Even with the unfilled appointments, however, she said the department has never wasted a dose of the vaccine.

“That vaccine can absolutely stay frozen,” Tolman-Hill said. “We only defrost or unthaw the amount of vaccine that we know we will be needing for that day’s appointments.”

She said now that Utahns 50-years-old and up can get vaccinated, along with those 16 and older with certain underlying health conditions, appointment slots this week are booked solid.

Joshua Greer, public information officer with the Bear River Health Department, said that has been the trend in his area, too. He said the newly-eligible people tend to rush to get the first vaccine appointments, but slots remain open a few weeks out.

He said part of it is more providers are now offering the vaccine. Greer said some people might sign up with their local health department, but then not show up because they found an earlier time somewhere else.

“We'll work with the challenges that come with the multiple providers,” he said. “But at the same time [we] recognize that this is a great thing. People have the option to get [the vaccine] and get it quick.”

Utah has so far vaccinated about 13% of the population. Along with those who’ve already contracted COVID-19, health officials with Intermountain Healthcare estimate about 30% of the population is immune.

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