Two University of Utah Health officials believe that Utah should focus resources on getting initial COVID-19 vaccination doses into the arms of the state’s residents rather than giving booster shots to those who have already had the vaccine. Stephen Goldstein, an evolutionary virologist and postdoctoral researcher at the university, and Dr. Emily Spivak, a professor of medicine in UofU Health’s Division of Infectious Diseases, addressed the subject in a recent virtual news conference.

“The bang for the buck is much higher in reaching people who have not been vaccinated at all,” Goldstein said. “It would be a real shame if we prioritize these boosters and take our foot off the gas.”

Goldstein and Spivak agreed that the vaccination rate needs to increase to fight surges like that current delta variant spike.

“Between maybe now and the December holidays, I have to admit I’m not very optimistic,” said Spivak. “I think cases are going to continue to rise and rise and rise unless there is some big, drastic change in the uptake of vaccine.”

Goldstein went so far as to suggest employers institute vaccine mandates. “If you’re thinking about putting a vaccine mandate in place for your employees, the time is now,” he said.

The researchers mentioned the decision by the federal Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval for the Pfizer vaccine and said it is leading to mandates around the country. Vaccinations are now required for members of the military.

The Utah Health Department has said that, based on recent data, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is nearly five times greater for Utahns who are not vaccinated while their risk of hospitalization is 6.5 times greater and their risk of dying is five times greater.