With little fanfare, Colorado on Friday began a new phase of its vaccine rollout plan that expanded eligibility to over half of its population — but with vaccine demand still greatly exceeding supply, it could be weeks before many newly eligible Coloradans are able to secure an appointment.
Phase 1B.4, the final group to be prioritized for access to the vaccine before it becomes available to the general public, includes people 50 and older, people with a high-risk health condition and several categories of “frontline essential workers,” including employees in the food service, transportation and manufacturing sectors.
State officials estimate that at least one of those criteria will apply to about 2.5 million Colorado residents, who can now join the 1.3 million residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine in earlier phases.
But officials cautioned that, for now, vaccine appointments may be hard to come by for Coloradans in Phase 1B.4.
“Because vaccine supplies are limited, not everyone who is currently eligible will have access to the vaccine at the same time,” a state spokesperson wrote in an email to Newsline. “We are coordinating with local public health agencies, health care providers, pharmacies, and diverse community partners to distribute the vaccine as equitably and efficiently as possible.”
Colorado received a total allocation of about 264,000 doses of the three approved vaccines this week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At that rate, it could take months to fully vaccinate a majority of those included in Phase 1B.4, though Gov. Jared Polis and other officials have in recent weeks expressed confidence that vaccine shipments are poised to increase dramatically in late March and early April.
Polis said last week that he expects every Coloradan to become eligible for the vaccine by mid-April.
As large numbers of newly-eligible Coloradans flocked to providers’ websites this week, however, many expressed frustration at the lack of available vaccine appointments. Ad-hoc community efforts like the Facebook group Colorado Vaccine Hunters and the Twitter account CO Vax Alerts have quickly amassed thousands of followers as Coloradans seek to stay up-to-date on the latest availabilities.
Confusion spread on social media on Friday as some Coloradans reported that they were told by providers that those in Phase 1B.4 weren’t eligible yet. As of noon on Friday, King Soopers’ automated vaccine-appointment website still erroneously told users that only those in Phase 1B.3 were eligible, but the error was resolved by the late afternoon.
“The state has communicated to providers that 1B.4 begins today and that those people are now eligible,” the state’s Joint Information Center said Friday. “We are reemphasizing to providers today that registration sites need to be updated. Many of the larger health care providers like Centura Health, UCHeath and King Soopers have updated their sites. Some smaller providers may not have updated their registration site yet, but should be compliant sometime today.”
State officials recommended calling providers to schedule an appointment over the phone if their online registration systems haven’t yet been updated to accept Phase 1B.4 groups. A list of providers is available on the state’s COVID-19 website.
For more information about how to sign up for vaccination, visit cocovidvaccine.org or call 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926).
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. on March 29, 2021, to correct the description of vaccine eligibility in Phase 1B.4.