State says COVID boosters OK for everyone over 18, prepares for arrival of new treatment pills

Stock photo. | Photo by iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The governor announced Thursday that all Utahns 18 or older can receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccines starting Friday.

File photo of Gov. Spencer Cox speaking at the ceremonial groundbreaking for Cedar Breaks National Monument’s new visitor center, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah, Sept. 7, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Gov. Spencer Cox made the announcement during the recording in Salt Lake City on Thursday of the PBS Utah Monthly Governor’s Press Conference program, and the Utah Department of Health followed by recommending booster shots in the state for all individuals 18 and over.

Cox said the decision was based on two factors: Almost every county in Utah – including every Southern Utah county – still seeing the highest level of COVID-19 transmission and to eliminate the confusion over who can and can not receive a booster shot. 

The governor said he was joining with eight other states that have already made the move preemptively ahead of the CDC, which is expected to make a similar announcement nationwide before the weekend. 

While the CDC already had made boosters available to everyone 18 or over who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Pfizer and Moderna recipients were limited to those 65 and over and those with high-risk conditions or work environments.

Per a previous recommendation from the CDC, a person who received one manufacturer’s vaccine can receive a booster of a different brand, though health experts have said Pfizer and Moderna recipients should stick with what they took previously.

In a file photo, a resident receives a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine inside the St. George Active Life Center for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s COVID-19 second-dose vaccination clinic on April 6, 2021. St. George, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“We just wanted to make it simple,” Cox said. The governor also noted that with the elderly more prone to breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals, the holidays are a good time to protect other loved ones. “Our families will be together for the holidays, especially those 65 and over. All adults 18 and over should consider a booster shot.”

As another incentive for people to be vaccinated, earlier in the week the governor announced $500,000 in grants are available to Utah businesses with 50 employees or less to give paid-time-off for employees to either get vaccinated or a booster, take time off for some of the side effects of an activated immune system that take place within 48 hours of a shot or take a child to be inoculated against COVID-19.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine became available for everyone ages 5 and over two weeks ago, but open slots in pediatric vaccine reservations at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department in the last week may be a sign there’s not a surge of parents getting their kids vaccinated like there was for those 65 and above when the vaccines first became available.

Local health department spokesperson David Heaton said because of that, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department will be once again abandoning online vaccine appointments for walk-in vaccinations.

“We’re likely to go back to walk-in after Thanksgiving,” Heaton said.

In the past week, infection rates have either been steady of falling in all five Southern Utah counties, while local hospitalizations and deaths have each seen a slight reduction.

State preparing to distribute COVID pills

Cox also announced Wednesday that the Utah Department of Health is making the initial preparations to distribute antivirus COVID-19 pills that in trials have prevented nearly nine of every 10 high-risk, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients from requiring hospitalization or dying.  

Stock photo. | Photo by
Plyushkin/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The preparations are similar to those that the state made to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines at this time a year ago before their approval. 

The move comes on the same day the White House announced it would be spending billions of dollars to purchase the anti-COVID medications for distribution to effectively make them free of charge similar to how the federal government purchased the COVID-19 vaccines for distribution. 

The cost of the medication, especially for poorer families, had been the largest concern expressed by health experts concerning anti-COVID pills.

The Paxlovid pill by Pfizer and the molnupiravir medication by Merck are now both before the Federal Drug Administration for approval, which may come before the end of the month. Molupiravir has already been approved in the United Kingdom.

While each uses different methods – whether it is rewriting the virus’ code in the case of the Merck pill or attacking an enzyme in the virus like Paxlovid – each stops COVID-19 by hindering the ability of the virus to replicate.

The pills won’t prevent a person from getting COVID-19 like the vaccines, but they are showing promise at preventing most who get the virus from getting sick or dying. 

The pills are not the same as monoclonal antibodies, which are proteins that attach to cells and prevent the virus from attacking them.

Until now, monochlonal antibodies have been the only FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19 but is needed to be fed through IVs at clinics like one in St. George and are less than 70% effective. Paxlovid or molnupiravir could conceivably be picked up at a local pharmacy and taken with a glass of water at home.

The Associated Press also reports the COVID pills are not similar to ivermectin, which was found to be ineffective by a recent study to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. 

“The only way they are alike is that they are both pills,” Dr. William Petri, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, told the Associated Press.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get the first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 5 and over. Those 5-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can receive a booster dose: Those who received Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago and are 18 or older.
  • Those who received Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago and are 18 or older. Booster shots can be of any form of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is currently online appointment only but expected to return to walk-up after Thanksgiving. Some pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments. Check the links below before going.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

For hours and more information: Click here 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St., Panguitch.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

For hours and more information: Click here 

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

For hours and more information:: Click here

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Call (435) 673-6131 to determine if the vaccine is available.


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketplace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd. and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use to find a location near you

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Wednesday, according to Utah Department of Health)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 42,866 (7-day average of 93.14 per day, down 4.3% in last week)

Active cases: 1,845 (falling since Nov. 12)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 518.15 per 100K rate in 14 days, falling since Nov. 11)
  • Iron County (High): 601.76, steady
  • Kane County (High): 228.25, falling
  • Garfield County (High): 336.57, falling
  • Beaver County (High): 551.42 falling

Hospitalized: 42 (falling)

Deaths: 433 (8 since Nov. 12)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Saturday (Nov. 13): 107
  • Sunday (Nov. 14): 75
  • Monday (Nov. 15): 64
  • Tuesday (Nov. 16): 65
  • Wednesday (Nov. 17): 137
  • Thursday (Nov. 18): 98

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,633 (rising)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 113,776 (43.5% fully vaccinated)

  • St. George: 46.9% fully vaccinated  
  • Cedar City: 39.03% 
  • Washington City: 42.54% 
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 50.27% 
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 37.3% 
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 43.24% 
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 42.75% (+0.49%)

Southern Utah schools active COVID-19 infections (as of Wednesday, according to Utah Department of Health)

NOTE: Utah Department of Health currently provides only ranges of the number of infections in each district, rather than exact figures. Figures may be an overall undercount as not all infections among students are reported to the state.

    • Washington County School District: 37 to 128 (steady since Nov. 12)
    • Iron County School District: 23 to 43 (steady)
    • Kane County School District: 1-4 (steady)
    • Garfield County School District: 2-8 (steady)
    • Beaver County School District: 1-4 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 12-21 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Private Schools: 1-4 (rising)

Schools in yellow (In danger of moving to test-to-stay): None
Schools in red (Students/staff must test negative to attend): None
Top 5 schools: Vista School (Southwest Utah Charter) 9 active infections, Canyon View Middle (Iron) 7, Cedar City High (Iron) 6, Snow Canyon Middle (Washington) 5, Red Mountain School (Washington) 5.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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