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Utahns age 50 and older can start making appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday.
He also said younger adult Utahns with certain health conditions can seek vaccine. Those new qualifying conditions are diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, obesity with a BMI index of 30 or higher, and anyone with chronic kidney disease.
Cox made the announcement at his weekly COVID-19 media briefing, streamed over Facebook Live from the Utah Capitol.
“This is a huge addition to eligibility,” Cox said. “Which means that it’s not going to be possible for everyone in these areas to get an appointment right away,” he added. People are “going to have to be patient, going to have to keep checking back.”
He asked newly eligible Utahns to wait until Monday to make appointments.
By April, Cox said, the state hopes to be able to open vaccinations to all adults in Utah, “assuming everything goes according to plan.”
The news comes a day after Utah hospitals started receiving shipments of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use on Saturday.
Before Thursday, Utahns 65 and older were eligible to get the vaccine, along with people over 18 with certain serious or chronic medical conditions, health care workers, first responders, teachers, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
Cox announced that six counties — Cache, Davis, Grand, Salt Lake, Sanpete and Wasatch — will move into the state’s “moderate” transmission categories. They join seven other counties that were in the “moderate” category previously.
”There are no restrictions on gatherings in ‘moderate,’” Cox said, “so long as they are wearing masks.”
Cox also said he wanted “to reflect on the fact that we have lost almost 2,000 Utahns to this insidious disease.”
Cox said that a year ago, he asked state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn how bad the pandemic could get. The worst-case scenario, Dunn told Cox, was 20,000 Utahns dying from COVID-19; the best the state could hope for was 2,000 deaths.
”We’re very grateful and excited that we’re on the best-case scenario of that,” Cox said.
Dunn urged Utahns to accept whichever of the three vaccines they are offered, as they seek appointments. “The best vaccine you can get is the one can get first, regardless of manufacturer,” she said.
This story is developing and will be updated.