Christy Ruffell, manager of clinic nursing standards at UCHealth Medical Center, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to CNA Luis Perez at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital on Dec. 14, 2020, in Fort Collins. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, pool)
Colorado will receive 16,000 fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech than it had originally expected in its second shipment, Gov. Jared Polis said at a news briefing Dec. 18.
The state received its first order of 46,800 doses from the companies starting Dec. 14. Those doses were delivered to hospitals and health care facilities for distribution, with health care workers who treat COVID-19 patients receiving first priority.
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The second shipment was supposed to contain 56,550 doses, 25,000 of which were destined for residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living and long-term care facilities.
Polis said it’s not clear how long those 16,000 doses missing from the second shipment will be delayed.
“The federal government gives us one week visibility into the number of vaccines that we will receive,” Polis said.
“The best case scenario — the one I hope for — is this is for whatever reason a short delay of a week and that they will catch up a week later, but we don’t yet know that,” Polis said, “and we will continue to urge the federal government to work with Pfizer to get every dose of the vaccine out as quickly as possible.”
However, he added, the state is finding that each vial containing doses of the Pfizer vaccine contains enough for six people to get vaccinated once — rather than five, as had been expected. Colorado also still expects to receive the full 95,600 doses in its first order from pharmaceutical company Moderna, whose vaccine was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18.
In an email, a spokesperson for the federal Department of Health and Human Services provided a different explanation for the missing doses.
“There was some confusion between planning and training numbers provided in mid-November and actual official weekly allocations, which are only available the week prior to distribution shipping because they are based on the number of releasable vaccine doses available,” the spokesperson said. “We are working on clearing up any misunderstanding up with the governors and jurisdictions.”
The only official allocation numbers provided to states were issued on Nov. 20, Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, the spokesperson said.
As vaccine rollout continues, Colorado hospitals and health care facilities are still working to vaccinate all of their workers. Meanwhile, long-term care facility residents and staff — who are also part of Phase 1A of Colorado’s vaccination plan — will receive vaccine through the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens, and Managed Health Care Associates to vaccinate residents and staff on-site at long-term care facilities.
According to a vaccine tracker launched by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Dec. 18, the state has administered 12,123 doses of vaccine so far.
If someone believes they would qualify for vaccination in Phase 1A and isn’t receiving the vaccine through their employer, they should contact the nearest vaccine distribution location for more information, according to a spokesperson for CDPHE. Coloradans can also call COHELP at 1-877-462-2911 for more information about where to get vaccinated.
Next, in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan, other health care workers and first responders will be able to receive the vaccine. Phase 1B includes workers in home health care, hospice and dental settings; plus emergency medical workers, firefighters, police, correctional workers, dispatchers and funeral services staff.
The state expects to be able to vaccinate everyone in Phases 1A and 1B during the winter.
Third wave appears to subside
New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high in the state, but data shows signs that the third and most severe wave of the pandemic is beginning to subside in Colorado.
From Dec. 11 through Dec. 17, an average of 2,944 new cases were reported to CDPHE each day. That’s a 38% decrease from the previous week, when 4,060 new cases was the daily average.
Hospitalizations remain high but have decreased after peaking in early December. As of Dec. 18, 1,370 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado, plus 106 people with suspected cases. Two weeks ago, 1,740 people were in the hospital with confirmed COVID-19 and 143 with suspected COVID-19.
Deaths show no sign of subsiding, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said at the Dec. 18 briefing. As of Dec. 18, 4,259 people had died with COVID-19, at least 3,427 of whom died as a direct result of the illness.
“It’s not unexpected for us to see this data, the death data, lagging behind the improvements we’re seeing in cases and hospitalizations,” Herlihy said.
Refraining from socializing with people outside of one’s household and wearing a mask when leaving the house will help prevent another uptick in new cases, she added.
“We’re asking for Coloradans’ help to step up once again, like we did over Thanksgiving, to help us stay the course through this holiday period and make sure that we don’t see a holiday spike following Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” Herlihy said.
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