SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than half of Utah’s adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but nationally and here in the Beehive State, demand has been declining.
When the vaccine first arrived in Utah in December, supply was limited and demand was high. Now that everyone in Utah age 16 and older is eligible for vaccination, fewer people have lined up.
Providers have adjusted their tactics.
“The more we can get that immunity in more and more people, the faster we’ll be able to go back to the things that we want to do,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, University of Utah Health’s chief medical officer of ambulatory health.
With only 30% of all Utahns fully vaccinated, the average daily pace of vaccinations has slowed. The latest data from the Utah Department of Health showed the seven-day average for vaccinations peaked at just over 30,000 on April 10.
Nearly four weeks later, Utah’s daily vaccination average is down to 16,000.
Dr. Orlandi was also responsible for patient vaccinations at U of U Health.
“We think that… the large number of people who were enthusiastic about being vaccinated have gotten vaccinations,” Orlandi said. “Now, we are moving into a time where people are somewhat hesitant.”
He said people may be hesitant because they don’t trust the vaccines, or have other trust issues with health care largely based on misinformation. This did not come as a surprise.
“We knew that we would see a tapering at some point,” he said. “I think all of us in health care and in public health would have liked to have seen that tapering happening later, when a greater number of people have been vaccinated.”
He would have preferred to see something closer to 70% or 80%. As a result, he said Utah is still a long way from herd immunity.
“We anticipated this, so we are now pivoting to move into more of a one-on-one conversation where patients can speak with trusted providers,” Orlandi said.
He recommended people concerned about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines should talk with their doctor about its importance to protect themselves and others.
Several providers, including the Salt Lake County Health Department, have taken the vaccine directly into neighborhoods with mobile units – a strategy that leverages trusted community relationships to make people feel more comfortable than they might be at a mass vaccination clinic.
“The planning and execution of doing that is well underway and we will continue to see that in the next few weeks,” Orlandi said.
President Joe Biden set a national goal of at least one dose for 70% of all adults by July 4.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has expressed similar expectations that include gatherings for Independence Day.