Colorado officials on Friday announced the state’s plan to distribute a vaccine for COVID-19.
Gov. Jared Polis during a COVID-19 news briefing said he expects a vaccine, in limited supply, to be ready for distribution in late November. But it could take up to a year to distribute a vaccine widely in Colorado.
A main component of the Colorado COVID-19 Vaccination Plan is the set of categories it assigns for vaccine roll-out phases. The first Coloradans eligible for vaccination will be members of the “critical workforce,” such as, first, health care workers and pharmacists, then EMS crews, police officers, firefighters, public health personnel and corrections workers. Next to receive a vaccine will be “highest risk individuals,” such as residents of long-term care facilities. Later, vaccinations would be available to residents of congregate housing, essential workers, higher-risk people, and, finally, adults in the general population.
Children and pregnant women are excluded from the distribution plan because current vaccine trials do not include those populations, but the plan says that state officials expect federal guidance on vaccinating children and pregnant women at a later date.
Polis was joined during the briefing by Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Eric France, CDPHE’s chief medical officer. Ryan, recalling the 2009 H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic, noted that the state has experience distributing a vaccine on which it can build to successfully deploy a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have definitely been here before,” she said.
Later in the briefing, however, France highlighted the special challenges that face the state.
“This will be new,” France said. “We’ve never really done something this large in the United States when it comes to vaccines, to be vaccinating 100 million people over a short time period across the states.”
Four developers — Moderna, Pfizer, Oxford Biomedical and Janssen — have COVID-19 vaccines in phase III trials. A vaccine would need to achieve emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before it could be distributed to states, which in turn would distribute doses to eligible providers to vaccinate Coloradans.
The urgency of the state’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic was underscored during the briefing as Polis discussed Colorado’s latest COVID-19 statistics. The state recently crossed the threshold of 2,000 COVID-19 deaths. The weekly average daily reported new cases was 811 for the week ending Oct. 14, which was up from the previous week, when the average was 664 new cases per day. On Oct. 16 there were 352 people in Colorado hospitals with confirmed COVID-19, whereas a week earlier there were 268.
“I can’t emphasize enough how concerning these trends are,” Polis said, adding that 1 of every 260 Coloradans is currently contagious with the virus.
He pleaded with listeners to wear a mask, avoid gatherings, wash their hands and practice other safety measures.