Getting a small portion of the population vaccinated in Utah has come with challenges.
CVS and Walgreens were allocated too much vaccine, and the state had to ask for nearly 30,000 doses back. But, there’s now a plan to get the rest of the population vaccinated, when availability is opened up to everyone.
Beginning in March, the state will use pharmacies at Walmart and Smith’s to administer the vaccine to the general population, a switch from CVS and Walgreens, which are currently helping vaccinate long-term care facility staff and residents.
The federal government only allows states to pick two pharmacy companies from a pre-approved list to help administer doses.
Rich Lakin, the state’s immunization director, says the decision to go with Smith’s and Walmart is strictly about geography.
Lakin says each of the more than 100 locations across Utah will get vaccine as long as the state gets enough.
If we open up too early to more populations and again we don’t have enough vaccine, we’ll run into the same thing, so hopefully history won’t repeat itself,” Lakin said.
Lakin says one of the biggest jobs right now is studying how to better transfer doses among partners that have too much. The health department relies on surveys of people likely to get vaccinated to help disburse doses.
“That’s what we’re constantly doing; we’re constantly looking at the data to ensure if there’s doses sitting at a facility, then we want those moved somewhere,” Lakin said.
Appointments with Smith’s and Walmart will be necessary to get vaccinated, and the state decides how much vaccine each location will get based on how much vaccine the state gets.
“If we have enough vaccine, we will spread it out to the 100 locations, and if we don’t, then we will strategically send that vaccine out to certain stores to accommodate the need,” Lakin said.
Vaccination clinics and local health departments will still help vaccinate once this new partnership begins. Lakin said he hopes Smith’s and Walmart will start vaccinating in March.