Nov 6, 2023 - News

Utah sees slow uptake for updated COVID-19 shots

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

About 5% of Utahns — or nearly 200,000 — have rolled up their sleeves for the updated COVID-19 vaccines released in September, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases in Utah are expected to climb as colder temperatures and upcoming holidays drive more indoor gatherings, Rich Lakin, DHHS immunization director, told Axios.

Threat level: Unvaccinated Utahns are nearly three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts, according to state data.

  • Getting inoculated lessens the severity and length of a COVID-19 infection, Lakin said.

The big picture: Just 7% of U.S. adults had received the new shots as of last month, per a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national survey.

Details: The new vaccine is designed to protect against the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant, a dominant variant seen this year.

What they're saying: "I just don't think that people feel that it's something that they need to get right now," Lakin said.

  • "I don't think they feel like the severity of the illness is worse than like the common cold."

Reality check: COVID-19 is far deadlier than the common cold.

Of note: Utah's vaccine rate is likely an undercount because the state does not require vaccinations to be reported to the state registry, he said.

The latest: DHHS is currently running a campaign to persuade Utahns aged 60 or above to talk to their doctors about staying up to date with their vaccines, including the COVID shot, this fall and winter.

  • The $395,000 campaign is being covered by federal dollars.

Be smart: Utahns interested in getting a shot can make appointments at their local pharmacies, or health care providers — or contact their local health department.

  • You can call the Salt Lake County Health Department to set up an appointment at 385-468-SHOT.

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