Colorado tweaks vaccine rollout again, aims to prioritize ‘most vulnerable’

Phase that starts March 5 includes grocery workers, people 60 to 64 and those with multiple health conditions

By: - February 26, 2021 2:59 pm

Chris Kuelling, right, waits to get his COVID-19 vaccination from Billy Martinez, center, with UCHealth, during the mass vaccination event in the parking lots of Coors Field on Jan. 31, 2021, in Denver. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, pool)

Colorado’s latest effort to fine-tune its vaccine prioritization plan will move people aged 60 and up, people with multiple serious health conditions, and grocery and agricultural employees to the front of the line, while those aged 50 and up and many other categories of “essential workers” will likely have to wait several weeks longer than expected.

Phase 1B.3 of Colorado’s COVID-19 vaccination plan will begin on March 5, Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials announced at a press conference on Friday.

The phase will prioritize vaccinations for what is estimated to be a group of about 958,000 Coloradans, including those aged 60 to 64, those with two or more “comorbidities” — health conditions like chronic heart and respiratory diseases, obesity, cancer and certain disabilities — and grocery and agricultural workers.

Gov. Jared Polis participates in a news briefing on Colorado’s response to COVID-19 on Feb. 26, 2021. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)

“We are charging ahead on protecting our most vulnerable,” Polis said.

Another group of roughly 2.5 million Coloradans who were previously scheduled to begin receiving vaccinations in Phase 1B.3, however, will move down to the newly-created Phase 1B.4. Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said that the state expects Phase 1B.4 to begin in “late March, possibly as early as March 21.”

Phase 1B.4 will expand vaccine access to Coloradans aged 50 to 59, those with only one high-risk health condition, and many categories of “frontline essential workers,” including those in the food service, manufacturing, transportation and public health sectors.

“The goal of 1B.4 is really to ensure that those who are exposed to COVID because of the work that they do have access to the vaccine,” Bookman said.

Colorado expects to receive about 850,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the next three weeks, and it could also receive about 400,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which is expected to be granted an emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration as soon as today — by the end of March. And officials say that vaccine supply is poised to increase dramatically from there.

“We expect a really strong increase the last week of March, the first week of April,” said Brigadier General Scott Sherman of the Colorado National Guard.

Officials cautioned that details of the state’s rollout could continue to change subject to the vaccine shipments being distributed by the federal government. But amid a raft of positive vaccine news, they’re hopeful that the general public can begin to get access to the vaccine in April — and that “phase 2” will bring an end to the need for elaborate, ever-shifting prioritization schemes.

“This is the last complicated tiering that we’re talking about,” Polis said. “We want to get away from this complexity as quickly as possible, so this is the last phase of that.”

A chart of Colorado’s vaccine distribution plan as of Feb. 26, 2021. (screenshot)

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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