COVID-19 vaccine appointments going unused in Utah County

A traffic officer directs traffic at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles. Over 200 vaccine appointments went unused in Utah County over the weekend. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Utah County Health Department reported an excess amount of COVID-19 vaccine appointment slots in Utah County in the last week.

“We monitored it over the weekend, kept posting on social about it, and it was kind of filling but not as quickly as we would like. We did end up with about 200 unused appointment slots on Monday,” said Aislynn Tolman-Hill, the health department’s public information officer.

The excess appointments in the county signal that the health department’s vaccination schedule will soon transition from the first phase into the second. According to the Utah County Health Department website, the first phase includes anyone who is a non-hospital healthcare worker, assisted living staff, K-12 public school staff and first responders.

The second phase has partially begun, allowing those in previous categories as well as Utahns who are 65 or older to be vaccinated. Starting March 1, “Utah County residents who are 16 or older with specific medical conditions will become eligible for the vaccine,” the website says.

“There is naturally more demand for vaccines when an additional group is added to the priority list, and that demand decreases as less and less people are unvaccinated in the priority group,” said spokesperson from the Utah County Health Department Kylaas Flanagan.

Flanagan clarified that rumors of vaccines going to waste within the county is false.

“This is a pretty common misconception – there isn’t vaccine waste. Health Officers (the heads of health departments in the state) work together to move those vaccines to more appropriate locations where vaccine supply is lower than demand,” Flanagan said.

The vaccines may not be going to waste, but the Utah County Health Department wants no appointment slots to go unused if people in the current vaccination phases want the vaccine.

“We’re also trying to get the message out to everyone, the whole population, that if you have friends, loved ones or a neighbor in that 70-and-over population, check in on them. Ask if they have had the vaccine, if they want the vaccine, and do they know how to sign up,” Tolman-Hill said.

Flanagan said as of last week, Utah County had vaccinated more than 60% of residents over the age of 70, which is second in the state in terms of percentage.

Regardless of whether or not there is an excess of appointments, only those who qualify within the current vaccination phase may sign up for a time slot.

The Utah County Health Department uses two methods to notify residents about progression through vaccination phases.

“Our two main methods are through the text notification system and through our social media pages. To sign up for text alerts, type the message “UCHEALTH” to the number 888777. We also have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts if you want to follow us on those,” Flanagan said.

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