Pharmacies across Utah began receiving COVID-19 vaccine last week for administration to eligible customers. The federal government shipped doses directly to area Smith’s and Walmart pharmacies on Feb. 11. The two chains have a distribution contract with the state.

Utah immunization program manager Rich Lakin said Utahns need to be patient with this process, but he’s now more optimistic about when the vaccine will be available for everyone.

“When it comes to doses delivered and doses administered, we are truly kicking butt right now,” Lakin said. He said Utah now ranks sixth in the nation for getting available vaccines to patients. Delays are being caused by the vailability of vaccines and a large demand in the senior population.

“If we had enough vaccine, we could be well deep into this campaign a lot further,” Lakin said.

In Utah, 3,200 first-week doses were shared among 18 Walmart stores — about one-third of Utah locations — and Smith’s received 2,500 doses for 25 stores. That’s about half of Smith’s stores in Utah. The vaccine allotment may increase each week so that Smith’s and Walmart can add additional stores in the future, Lakin said.

“The nice thing about pharmacies is that they’re kind of highly trusted and they have trained healthcare providers,” said Lakin.

“People might be a little anxious about a vaccine, and it’s nice for them to go to a familiar place,” said Erin Fox, one of the senior pharmacy directors at University of Utah Health.

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