Colorado hospitals and health care facilities are preparing to distribute the first COVID-19 vaccine doses to their employees who work closely with infected patients.
On Dec. 11, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the locations that will receive the first doses of two vaccines, pending FDA-issed emergency use authorizations. The state expects to get 46,800 doses of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech sometime between Dec. 13 and 16, followed by 95,600 doses of a second vaccine, developed by Moderna, sometime the week of Dec. 21.
The first people to receive those doses will be health workers who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients for at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.
“We’re thrilled that we’re finally at that point where it’s a real thing and not just a theoretical,” Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth, said of the vaccines.
The hospital system anticipates there will be enough vaccine doses in the first shipments from Pfizer and Moderna for all of the high-risk health workers who want one, Barron added. UCHealth employees won’t be required to get the vaccine, though they’re being encouraged to.
“People have to feel comfortable with the decision,” Barron said.
Some might feel skeptical, she said, because of how quickly the vaccines were developed. Normally, it takes years for a vaccine to get federal approval.
“They’ve gone through all the same processes that they would normally go through,” Barron said of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna. “A lot of it is the financial aspect … They were able to really just do this in a very efficient and a very safe manner, because they had the financing” from the federal government.
The biggest remaining question, she said, is how long the vaccine remains effective after someone first receives it.
CDPHE chose the following locations, among others, to distribute the first doses of Pfizer vaccine to their workers:
• UCHealth Authority: 7,800 doses
• Children’s Hospital Colorado: 4,875 doses
• UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital: 3,900 doses
• UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central: 3,900 doses
• Denver Health Medical Center: 2,925 doses
• Penrose-St. Francis Health Services: 1,950 doses
• Swedish Medical Center: 1,950 doses
• Saint Joseph Hospital: 1,650 doses
• Parkview Medical Center: 1,000 doses
The following locations, among others, will distribute the first doses of the Moderna vaccine:
• Children’s Hospital Colorado: 6,300 doses
• UCHealth Authority: 6,000 doses
• Denver Health Medical Center: 5,600 doses
• UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital: 4,100 doses
• UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central: 4,100 doses
• Saint Joseph Hospital: 3,000 doses
• Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center: 2,900 doses
• Platte Valley Medical Center: 2,600 doses
• Sky Ridge Medical Center: 2,600 doses
• Parkview Medical Center: 2,500 doses
• Swedish Medical Center: 2,400 doses
• Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo: 2,300 doses
• St. Mary’s Medical Center: 2,300 doses
• Medical Center of Aurora: 2,100 doses
• Foothills Hospital (Boulder Community): 2,000 doses
• Lutheran Medical Center: 1,500 doses
• Rose Medical Center: 1,500 doses
• St. Anthony Hospital: 1,500 doses
• Porter Adventist Hospital: 1,400 doses
• North Suburban Medical Center: 1,300 doses
• Colorado West Health Care – Community Hospital: 1,200 doses
• Parker Adventist Hospital: 1,200 doses
• Eagle County Public Health Avon: 1,100 doses
• Penrose-St. Francis Health Services: 1,100 doses
• UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies: 1,100 doses
• Valley View Hospital Association: 1,000 doses
In addition to those listed above, several locations throughout the state will receive fewer than 1,000 doses of one or both vaccines.
CDPHE selected locations to distribute the Pfizer vaccine that have ultra-low temperature freezers, since the vaccine must be stored at temperatures between -76 degrees and -112 degrees. Some of the locations will also be redistributing vaccine doses to smaller health care facilities in their regions.
“To be as equitable as possible, the state also purchased 10 ultra-cold storage units,” a Dec. 11 statement from CDPHE said. “CDPHE has distributed 8 of these and the remaining two will be distributed today.”
‘Now is the moment of greatest risk’
The Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, meaning it can be distributed more easily to rural areas.
“We are making sure that all of the entities receiving the vaccine … administer it within 72 hours, or we’ll take it back and use it for someone else,” Gov. Jared Polis said during a remote news briefing Dec. 11.
As the state prepares to vaccinate health care workers and long-term care residents, new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have entered a “high plateau” phase. As of Dec. 10, 1,545 people were hospitalized in the state with confirmed COVID-19, plus 114 people with suspected cases.
That’s slightly down from Dec. 3, when 1,796 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 and 160 with suspected cases.
Only around 300 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Colorado as recently as mid-October.
“At least things aren’t getting worse, but we really want things to get better so we can go back to living our lives,” Polis said, urging Coloradans to wear masks and refrain from gathering with people outside their household in the coming weeks.
In Colorado, 3,759 people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including 3,005 people whose deaths were directly attributed to the disease. More than 1,000 people have died with COVID-19 in the last month.
“Now is the moment of greatest risk of contracting the virus,” Polis said. “It’s greater than it was in March, it’s greater than it was in July — the most Coloradans have it that are now contagious.”
The latest modeling from the Colorado School of Public Health, released Dec. 4, shows 1 in 40 Coloradans are contagious with the virus.
Still, new cases have gone down slightly in the last week. From Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, an average of 4,406 cases were reported each day to CDPHE. From Dec. 3 through Dec. 9, an average of 4,018 daily new cases were reported.
“It’s possible some of your elderly relatives in nursing homes might be getting the vaccine around Christmas, but here’s the important thing to remember: They are not immune right when they get that first dose,” Polis said. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and full protection kicks in about 10 days after the second dose.