Colorado Capitol reporters get early access to COVID-19 vaccine with lawmakers, staff


    The Colorado Capitol in Denver is pictured on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)

    A group of 22 “frontline journalists” who cover the state Capitol in person were offered the COVID-19 vaccine during the first week of the legislative session, along with state lawmakers and legislative staff.

    The Colorado General Assembly met at the Capitol for three days starting Jan. 13 to address urgent, time-sensitive matters. Legislators adjourned until Feb. 16, in a move that Democratic leaders said was meant to provide extra time for COVID-19 cases to go down before they gathered for the full session.

    While government officials and some journalists were recently added to phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan along with other essential workers, health officials previously said that emergency responders and Coloradans 70 and older would be given highest priority in phase 1B. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of people 70 and older by the end of February — and many people in that group still haven’t received their first doses.

    “We have worked with representatives for the Colorado Broadcasters Association, the Colorado Press Association, and the Colorado Capitol Press Association to determine the best way to vaccinate frontline journalists,” Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis, told Newsline in an email Jan. 15. “We appreciate the efforts of the Colorado press corps throughout this pandemic and value their feedback as we determine ways to distribute the vaccine to frontline journalists.”

    Under this plan, Newsline reporter Faith Miller, who reports on activity at the Capitol, was offered the Pfizer vaccine and will receive both doses before returning to the building in February.

    Colorado’s newest phases of vaccine distribution was released Dec. 30, 2020. (screenshot)

    The reasoning behind vaccinating journalists, Cahill said, was that “they, like the essential staff at the legislature are essential for a safe legislative session. … The legislature is very much a part of our COVID response and the legislature’s ability to safely conduct the legislative session as soon as possible is necessary to our state’s successful COVID response and recovery.”

    Members of the U.S. Congress have also been offered COVID-19 vaccine, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Dec. 22 instructed governors to “ensure continuity of state government in their vaccine planning,” Cahill added.

    The list of people at the Legislature offered access to the vaccine was determined by legislative leadership and organized by nonpartisan staff, he said.

    Other frontline journalists who are on-the-ground reporters with the potential to be exposed to the coronavirus will be eligible for vaccine with the other essential workers included in phase 1B, such as teachers, restaurant staff and agricultural workers.

    “We estimate that this phase of vaccinating frontline workers will not begin until March 1 based on current supply knowledge,” Cahill said.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines frontline journalists as “those who are not able to work from home and must go out into the public to participate in our free press,” according to a spokesperson for the department.

    Cahill said the governor’s office asked the Colorado Broadcast Association and Colorado Press Association to provide census counts of frontline essential journalists by Jan. 20.

    “Once we have that information, we will be back in touch with more specific instructions for how those identified can access the vaccine,” he said.