Colorado will get 46,800 COVID-19 vaccine doses in its first order from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, as long as that vaccine gains federal approval, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced in the late afternoon of Dec. 4.
“Regular vaccine allocation from the federal government will be based on the size of Colorado’s total population and the quantity of ready-to-ship doses from the manufacturer,” CDPHE said in a statement. “Colorado makes up 1.69% of the U.S. population, so we expect 1.69% of the available vaccine.”
A few weeks ago, Gov. Jared Polis said that the state expects to receive a much higher estimate of 100,000 to 200,000 doses before the end of the year. It’s unclear whether the 46,800 doses will constitute the state’s full amount for December.
“We have been told to be prepared for the vaccine as soon as Dec. 12,” Tammy Vigil, spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said in an email in the early afternoon of Dec. 4, adding that vaccine availability is pending approval by the federal Food and Drug Administration and reviews by the state.
The FDA will consider Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use authorization on Dec. 10. The emergency use process is part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed aimed at accelerating the development of a safe and effective vaccine protecting people against COVID-19.
“Once a decision is made by the FDA, Operation Warp Speed will begin shipping limited doses to Colorado,” Michelle Hewitt, spokesperson for El Paso County Public Health, said in a midday email Dec. 4.
Hewitt said local public health agencies will not administer a vaccine until the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issues its final recommendations, which are expected one to three days after the FDA’s decision.
“We have not been given allocation numbers for El Paso County yet, but we know that the initial doses will be very limited,” Hewitt added.
Likewise, Vigil said DDPHE hasn’t “received any recent indication of the allotment to the state or to Denver.”
Colorado’s draft vaccine distribution plan, submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 16, assigns Coloradans to several vaccination phases based on their priority group.
The first people to get vaccines will be those assigned to phase 1A, which includes inpatient health care workers, such as staff at assisted living facilities; and outpatient health care workers, such as home health workers and pharmacists.
The next phase, 1B, includes paramedics, firefighters, police officers, public health workers and correctional staff.
The vaccine must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, presenting a challenge for distribution.
“Due to safety and security precautions, the ultra cold storage locations of the vaccine will be kept confidential,” CDPHE’s statement said.