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U of U Health Prepared To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines

In anticipation of Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, University of Utah Health is prepared to properly store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. A vaccine is a first step toward ending the pandemic and getting life back to normal. A COVID-19 vaccine is essential to keeping our health care systems functioning so we can continue to provide care to patients.

A vaccine could:

  • Lower the number of people infected by the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Reduce the severity of disease and number of people who need hospitalization
  • Lower the number of deaths from COVID-19
  • Lessen long-term effects of the disease

About the vaccines

Preliminary data indicates both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective. Both vaccines are currently under review for Emergency Use Authorization.

A vaccine made jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech may be the first to become available—and as early as mid-December. The Moderna vaccine may be the next vaccine to become available.

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and comes in larger shipments. This vaccine is going to the health care systems such as U of U Health that are able to handle these challenging logistics.
  • According to preliminary studies, both vaccines have mild side effects including:
    • Pain
    • Swelling and redness at the injection site
    • Mild fever
    • Chills
    • Tiredness
    • Headache
    • Muscle and joint aches

According to preliminary data, the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are safe and effective. However, we don't yet know if people who are vaccinated can get infected and shed the virus, even when they are protected from getting sick. At this time, it's advised for those who get the vaccine to keep taking precautions such a wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from people outside your household, frequently washing hands, and staying home when sick. Once most people are vaccinated, life can start getting back to normal.

Vaccine Distribution

A vaccine could start to be available to health care personnel at U of U Health as soon as mid-December. Because of the logistics of administering the vaccine, and the number of doses received each week, distribution will occur in phases.

  • U of U Health will offer the vaccine to all health care personnel during Phase 1a—the first phase of vaccine availability. Until the vaccine is received and distribution begins, it's not known how long this will take. The vaccine will be rolled out in waves. The first wave will include health care personnel who work in higher-risk areas, including the COVID-19 intensive care unit, COVID-19 acute care units, emergency department, urgent care, and testing sites. Environmental services workers are also included in this phase.
    • Health care personnel (HCP) are people who serve in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. HCP may include nurses, nursing assistants, providers, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, and pharmacists, as well as persons not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious agents (such as environmental services, transport, and security).
    • Providing HCP vaccine access is essential to keeping the U of U Health care system functioning and able to provide care for patients with COVID-19 and other conditions. It also prevents HCP from spreading the virus and protects them since they are exposed to the virus every day.
    • The vaccine will not be mandatory for U of U Health faculty and staff at this time.
  • During Phase 1b and 1c, it is anticipated the vaccine will become available to essential workers, those with high-risk medical conditions, and older individuals. U of U Health will work with and follow recommendations made by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).
  • U of U Health looks to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UDOH for criteria and guidance about when different groups should be offered the vaccine.