Gov. Jared Polis opens the state’s first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in the laboratory of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, early Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in east Denver. (AP Pool Photo/David Zalubowski)
State public health officials are nearing the end of the initial phase of Colorado’s vaccination distribution program, and the next phase, which includes people 70 and older, is poised to begin.
That was the message from state officials including Gov. Jared Polis and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, during a news briefing Jan. 6.
“As a state we’re currently completing phase 1A and in many areas of our state beginning phase 1B, age 70 and up,” Polis said. “We remain hopeful that as we get through phase 1 this winter, early spring we move into phase 2.” He continued, “General population will have access to the vaccine by summer.”
Late last month, Polis and state health officials updated Colorado’s vaccine distribution plan, which designates various segments of the population by phases. Based on recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state moved some groups ahead of the line to phase 1B, including people over 70 and teachers and school staff. Phase 1A includes health care workers who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients. They have been receiving vaccine doses since the doses first arrived in the state on Dec. 14. Phase 1A is expected to be generally completed by Jan. 15, but some areas of the state are already transitioning to 1B.
A primary reason people 70 and older were afforded higher priority is that state public health officials found that they account for 78% of COVID deaths and more than a third of hospitalizations in the state.
Officials shared information about how the 70 and older group can access the vaccine: Half of the members of this group are expected to receive the vaccine from hospitals, 20% will receive it from community partners such as local public health departments, 20% will receive it from federally-qualified centers, and 10% will receive it from retail pharmacies. The state oversees most vaccine distributions, but the federal government is coordinating distribution to residents in long-term care facilities through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.
“If you’re in this age group, we encourage you to call your health care provider for further instructions,” Ryan said during the news briefing.
Major hospital systems such as UCHealth, Denver Health and Centura Health are expected to have online portals operational by this weekend. Patients can schedule vaccinations through the portals, Polis said. He posted relevant links associated with those systems to the governor’s Facebook.
Public health officials are emphasizing equity in vaccine distribution, Ryan said.
“We must be deliberate about achieving equity, meeting communities where they are and addressing vaccine hesitancies that are rooted in historical injustices,” she said.
She noted that an October survey showed that 70% of white respondents plan to get the vaccine but only 53% of Black and 56% of Hispanic Coloradans plan to get it.
State officials are trying to overcome such disparities through outreach and community engagement. Last weekend, Valley Wide Health participated in a drive-through vaccination clinic in San Luis and Center, where more than 250 people 70 and older got shots.
As of Thursday, Colorado has had 352,923 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The number of people who have died in the state with COVID was 5,102 while the number of people who have died due to COVID was 4,107.
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