Colorado prepares for large-scale rollout of booster shots, pending federal approval

By: - September 13, 2021 3:39 pm
Gov. Polis

Gov. Jared Polis stands with people working at a drive-thru vaccine clinic in west Denver on Feb. 6, 2021. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

State officials are preparing to roll out booster shots for older Coloradans and residents of long-term care facilities this month, pending an official OK from the federal government, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday during a virtual news briefing.

“Now, keep in mind the impact (of vaccination against COVID-19) is much greater for the first two shots,” Polis said, referring to the two-shot regimens developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and by Moderna. “That takes you from zero protection to, you know, 80, 85% protection, very strong protection, even higher against severe disease.”

Still, preliminary research suggests that a third shot administered months after the first two may provide additional antibodies to help fight COVID-19. The U.S. plans to roll out booster shots on a large scale starting Sept. 20, as long as scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the policy.


Coloradans who are immunocompromised are already eligible for a third shot, which they can get simply by visiting a vaccine provider — no need to provide medical records or other proof. But starting Sept. 20, booster shots could be available to residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as people in their 70s and older who got their second dose eight months ago.

Not everyone is on board with the idea of governments authorizing booster shots on a large scale. The World Health Organization has asked wealthier countries to hold off on providing boosters until the end of the year, to give less wealthy countries an opportunity to vaccinate more of their population with first and second doses.


And on Monday, a group of top international scientists wrote in The Lancet that the available data does not currently support administering booster shots to the general population.

“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations than if used as boosters in vaccinated populations,” wrote the group, which included two former FDA vaccine regulators who’d disagreed with President Joe Biden’s policy on boosters.

Polis accused those scientists of having “blood on their hands,” because they hadn’t supported making booster shots available to the general population sooner, a move that Polis said could have prevented some deaths due to COVID-19.

As of Saturday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting that 3.7 million Coloradans — equal to 75.2% of the vaccine-eligible population 12 and older — had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, 3.38 million people, representing 68.7% of eligible Coloradans, were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Saturday.

Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, and Lt. Col. Jamie Pieper of the Colorado National Guard, told reporters that the state was prepared to meet the demand for booster shots.

COVID-19 hospitalizations
As of Friday, 902 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 in Colorado. Hospitalizations have been rising since mid-July. (CDPHE)

Cases down, hospitalizations up

The most recent wave of new COVID-19 infections appears to be subsiding in Colorado, after the seven-day average of daily new cases peaked on Sept. 5 at nearly 2,000 cases.

From Sept. 3 through Sept. 9, an average of 1,545 new cases were reported each day, according to data from CDPHE. That’s a 13% decrease from the previous week, when the average was 1,779 daily new cases.

Hospitalizations are a different story. As of Friday, CDPHE data showed 902 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 statewide, plus 78 people with suspected cases. That’s a marked increase from one week prior, when there were 833 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 and 59 people with suspected cases.


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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.