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One year since vaccines were made widely available, majority of Utahns are fully vaccinated

Photo of a Moderna Vaccine bottle.
Wikimedia Commons
COVID-19 vaccines have been available for most Utahns for about a year now.

COVID-19 vaccines were made available for all Utahns 16 and older in late March of 2021. Since then, nearly 5 million doses have been administered statewide.

State data currently show 66% of Utahns 5 years of age and older are fully vaccinated, while nearly 75% have received at least one dose. One-third of residents 12 and older have received a booster.

Rich Lakin, the director of immunization at the Utah Department of Health, said he thinks the state has done a good job with rolling out these vaccines, especially looking at high rates of vaccinations among elderly populations. More than 80% of residents 60 years and older are fully vaccinated.

He said rates have now mostly leveled out and likely won’t change much, unless there’s another surge.

“Vaccines are related to case counts,” Lakin said. “So when we start to see cases increase dramatically, then we start to see vaccinations increase dramatically also.”

There’s now a network of over 800 providers that can administer vaccines in Utah, Lakin said. That infrastructure could be up and running within two weeks, if that kind of large-scale effort is needed in the future. At current capacity, he said the state can vaccinate around 100,000 people a week.

“We’ve done a really good job making sure that every Utahn that wants to get a vaccine, can,” Lakin said.

County health department vaccination rates vary throughout the state. In Summit County, state data shows 103% of residents 5 years old and up have received at least one dose and 87% are fully vaccinated. The reason more than all of the county’s residents are said to be vaccinated is because there may have been instances of people claiming to be from Summit County to get a vaccine early in the rollout, according to a KPCW interview with the health department director.

Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah counties have the worst vaccination rates in the state — 40% of residents 5 years of age and older are fully vaccinated, according to state data. Liberty Best with the Tri-County Health Department said the low rates could be related to the rural demographics and that many students are homeschooled.

“To put it in perspective, our vaccination rates even before COVID were on a lower scale than the rest of the state,” Best said. “So I think that COVID is right in line with that … [but] we still have the vaccines, and we would love for people to come in and get vaccinated no matter what they're getting vaccinated for.”

Lakin said it’s likely in the future the COVID-19 vaccine will be an annual shot depending on variants in other countries.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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