Last night, trucks rolled out of the manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and headed across the country with the brand-new Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. With 300,000 Americans dead of COVID-19, overcrowded ICUs and some 210,000 new cases in the last month, it’s no surprise that health care workers are the first in line for the vaccine.
In fact, it was an ICU nurse in New York CIty who become the first American to receive the vaccine (not counting clinical trials). Sandra Lindsey and others like her have been on the front lines every day, caring for the sickest of the sick. In Utah, we have had 13 health care workers die of the virus. Jill Hansen Holker, an ICU nurse is fighting her her own life, waiting for an extremely rare double lung transplant. Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune told Jill’s heart breaking story – healhy, ran marathons for fun, no underlying health issues. But COVID-19 is no respecterof persons and has destroyed her lungs.
The first round of vaccines have been delivered to two Utah hospitals – Intermountain’s LDS Hospital and Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Two additional Intermountain hospitals expect doses to arrive by the end of the week, as well as University Hospital. In all, some 154,000 doses are expected to arrive in the next two weeks, with more to come.
The rollout will take time, and will proceed in the order outtlined by the Utah Department of Health, in order of risk, including health care workers (including hospital staff), essential workers (which, in my view must include teachers and school staff), long-term care residents and staff, those with underlying conditions and people over 65.
Not everyone is excited about a vaccine. In September, a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found only about 50% of Utans said they would get the vaccine. On September 14, Utah saw 436 new cases, 3 deaths, 134 people hospitalized and a positivity rate of 9.8%. Total numbers on that day were 58,438 with 3338 total hospitalizations and 436 total deaths. Three months later (December 14), we had 1968 new cases, (235,872 total cases), 572 are currently hospitalized (9,486 total hospitalizations), a 35% positivity rate and 7 new deaths for a total 1062 deaths.