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Health, Science & Environment

All Utahns Ages 16 And Up Will Be Eligible For A COVID-19 Vaccine March 24

PBS Gov Conf 3/18/21
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
/
Deseret News
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference at PBS Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

All Utahns aged 16 and older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting next Wednesday, March 24 — about a week sooner than Gov. Spencer Cox previously estimated.

Cox said health departments requested the change because there wasn’t quite enough demand from people who are currently qualified in order to use up all the shots the state has in a timely manner. Right now, Utahns 50-years-old and up, as well as younger people with certain underlying conditions, are eligible for the vaccine.

“We have next week about 15% of our doses that are available, haven’t been scheduled out yet,” Cox said. “We always want to keep demand above availability … we want to make sure that there are not doses sitting on shelves, and there have not been to this point.”

Opening up vaccines to everyone will also help the state vaccinate rural and minority communities more easily, Cox added.

“When we go into those places, we want to be able to vaccinate everyone,” Cox said. “That's the best way to do that. That's the best way to increase the equitable distribution of vaccines throughout the state.”

The state’s mask mandate will likely be rescinded on April 10, under a bill passed by the state Legislature that Cox said he would sign. Lawmakers passed the bill with a veto-proof majority and Cox said he negotiated with the Legislature to push the repeal date back to April 10. The bill originally scrapped the mandate immediately.

Cox said Thursday that while April 10 is sooner than what he wanted, he doesn’t want to veto the bill in order to preserve his relationship with lawmakers.

“I can't tell them, ‘Hey, I'm going to negotiate and then turn around and veto your bill,” Cox said. “That's how you lose the respect of the legislature and that's not how I operate.”

COVID-19 cases have been on the decline since mid-January, and the seven-day average of new cases is now down mid-September level with fewer than 500 cases being reported per day. But officials are worried about new variants of the virus circulating that were not present during the fall.

“If we see this turn around and case numbers start going up significantly or new variants come in and there are problems, we can call the legislature back into session and say, ‘Hey, we have a new problem’,” Cox said.

Utahns can make appointments online at vaccinate.utah.gov, getmyshot.utah.gov or your local health department's website.

Cox urged Utahns who will become eligible not to immediately rush to sign up for their doses, though, and said people should wait for specific guidance from local health departments.

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