Registered nurse Amanda Vicchrilli, right, reacts as fellow registered nurse Julie Nelson vaccinates her for COVID-19 at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Intermountain Healthcare doctors are optimistic about vaccination numbers, but still have concerns

By Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio | Posted - Jan. 23, 2021 at 1:58 p.m.

MURRAY — Despite a high number of deaths reported over the last two days, doctors with Intermountain Healthcare say there are reasons to be optimistic about the COVID-19 vaccine's impact on the spread of the disease. However, they say they have concerns with the discussions about what should be done with second doses.

The latest numbers from the Utah Department of Health show 1,771 new COVID-19 cases, with a rolling seven-day average of 1,860 per day. That is much lower from the numbers we saw on Jan. 6, but it's higher than the 1,073 that were reported on Jan. 17.

The state is also reporting an additional 13,350 doses of vaccine were distributed Thursday, but doctors with Intermountain Healthcare say vaccines are not the only thing people should worry about. Chief Physician Dr. Mark Briesacher says if people start ignoring current safety guidelines, the state will suffer for it.

"The thing that could absolutely turn that around and lead to a spike in cases, again, is if everyone relaxes and stops washing their hands and stops wearing a mask," he says.

Other states and countries have decided to release all second doses of the vaccine to the general public instead of reserving them for people who have already received the first injection. However, Briesacher says they have concerns with that practice. He says the science isn't clear on whether first doses become ineffective if someone waits too long to get the booster, although, he doesn't believe a small delay will hurt anyone.

He says, "If it's a couple of weeks that you're delayed, we don't think that's going to have any impact."

The thing that could absolutely turn that around and lead to a spike in cases, again, is if everyone relaxes and stops washing their hands and stops wearing a mask.

–Dr. Mark Briesacher, Intermountain Healthcare Chief Physician

However, he says certain people don't have the same level of protection they would have if they only get one dose. Out of every 20 people who received just one injection of the Pfizer vaccine, only 10 were adequately protected from the virus.

Briesacher says, "Some of them could be partially protected, and it's not until you get that second dose that you get to a high level of protection. Nineteen out of those 20 are protected."

Plus, doctors in the UK decided to release the second doses, and the results don't appear to be good.

"They still are experiencing extraordinarily high levels of hospitalizations," according to Briesacher.

Another concern is that a more resilient version of the virus could develop if people don't have a strong enough level of vaccination in their system.

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