SALT LAKE CITY – More than 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Utah by Tuesday health officials said — just 20% of the amount of the vaccine that had been shipped to the state.
"There's a lot that goes into actually getting a vaccine," said Jenny Johnson, Utah Department of Health spokeswoman. "It's not surprising to us that people see a number that's been shipped to Utah and they think that that means we should have 100,000 people vaccinated as soon as we get the vaccine. And that's just not how it works."
Numbers released Tuesday showed Pfizer and Moderna had shipped a combined 102,025 doses of the vaccine to Utah since the start of the rollout, and 20,417 of those doses have been given to health care workers and others included in Phase 1 of the state's distribution plan.
"People just have to know there's a lag in time from the time it's shipped to the time it goes into someone's arm," Johnson said. "But we are administering vaccines to people."
Johnson said when the state reports the number of "shipped" doses, it doesn't necessarily mean they are in the state yet. The lag between doses shipped to doses administered is up to seven days, she said. There is also a 24-hour window for reporting the vaccine has been administered, which adds to the delay in the numbers reported.
People just have to know there's a lag in time from the time it's shipped to the time it goes into someone's arm.
–Jenny Johnson, Utah Department of Health
Hospitals are instructed not to administer the vaccine to all staff members at once, "because if they do have some side effects that they want to be at home and rest through, you don't have staff that aren't able to work." Johnson also emphasized the vaccine is not the only thing hospitals have to deal with.
"These are the same places that have been dealing with this onslaught of COVID-19 patients," she said. "And they're tired."
Still, 20% of the vaccine administered is low compared to what other states have reported. Colorado had already administered more than 30% of its vaccine, according to a recent New York Times article, and Wyoming health officials said they had administered over 35%.
"I can't speak to why some states have administered more vaccine than Utah," Johnson said.
But Utah is doing better than the national average. On Tuesday, the CDC reported 2.1 million doses had been administered out of 11.4 million distributed across the country. That comes to about 18%.
Johnson said the recent COVID-19 relief bill the president signed this week will help with vaccine distribution.
"We need that Cares Act funding to continue our response efforts," she said.
Local health departments in the state have also stocked up on some of the vaccine to prepare for clinics that Johnson said will begin this week. Johnson expects those clinics, combined with the distribution now underway at long-term care facilities, to help close the gap between vaccines shipped and administered.
Correction:A previous version incorrectly reported that Wyoming had administered 50% of its vaccines. The state has actually distributed 35%.