COVID Vaccine Available for Over-66s in Salt Lake County As Delays Hit Utah

Residents aged 66 and over can now receive a COVID vaccine in Salt Lake County, Utah, the local health department has announced.

The update comes as part of an expansion of the state's vaccine rollout, in which Salt Lake County has been gradually decreasing the age limit for a vaccine by one year over the past few days. On February 19, the vaccine was available to people aged 69 or over.

Salt Lake County Health Department urged those who are eligible for a vaccine to step forward. The department said in a tweet: "Vaccination is a key step to ending the pandemic."

State governor Spencer Cox said during a briefing on Thursday that COVID vaccines were immediately available to all Utah adults aged 65 or over, but that this would vary throughout the state due to availability.

He said: "I can't emphasize this enough, we are asking for your continued patience as this will flood phone lines and servers as more and more people are trying to sign up."

Cox also said the state had made "incredible progress" in its vaccination campaign so far as "approximately 62 percent" of adults aged 70 and over had received a first dose as of Thursday.

The news from Salt Lake County came as the state's vaccine rollout was hit by delays due to severe winter weather.

More than 36,000 doses of Moderna COVID vaccines did not arrive as planned, while Pfizer doses were held up but later delivered, Utah Department of Health told KUTV.

Rich Lakin, the state health department's immunization director told Deseret News last week: "We're just dependent on Mother Nature right now."

Salt Lake County Health Department said the storm had forced officials to reschedule all vaccine appointments from Wednesday 17 February to Sunday 21.

Lori Buttars of the Weber-Morgan County Health Department told KUTV 700 appointments had been pushed to this week, but said it would be possible to cover those delays in a day.

Last month, Utah residents were urged to be more careful than after the U.K. variant of COVID—which spreads more easily than other variants—was discovered in the state.

The case, which was believed to be the state's first at the time, involved a 25- to 44-year-old male who had tested positive the previous month. He had not travelled outside of Utah.

Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said: "We fully anticipated we would find this strain in Utah.

"So now more than ever, Utah residents need to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and avoid large gatherings."

Health worker fills syringe
A health care worker is shown filling a syringe with a COVID vaccine dose. Salt Lake City has been gradually decreasing the age limit for a vaccine appointment over the past few days. Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty