Polis: 1 out of 5 Coloradans who is 70 and older will receive COVID vaccine this week

By: - January 19, 2021 4:52 pm

Registered nurse Antoinette Etchey, left, administers COVID-19 vaccine to Korean war veteran Melvin Menard, 88, at Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora on Dec. 22, 2020. Menard was among the first seniors in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post, Pool)

The state anticipates having enough COVID-19 vaccine doses this week to vaccinate 1 out of every 5 people who is 70 and older, Gov. Jared Polis said at a virtual news conference Jan. 19.

“We moved about 40,000 vaccines up to this week, in addition to the 80,000 or so that had been targeted, to get everything that we have in the state into people’s arms,” Polis said.

Previously, providers had been holding back those 40,000 extra doses to administer to people who’d already received their first doses. Both the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as the vaccine developed by Moderna — the two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use — require two doses, spaced either three or four weeks apart.

In a Jan. 18 letter to vaccine providers, Polis directed them to use the reserved “second doses” as first doses instead.

Despite the change, “second doses should absolutely be available on time,” Polis said. “The state is moving to real-time inventory management, meaning the week you need a second dose, we will use the doses that are received that week. We have confidence that the supply chain at current levels is stable.”

Colorado’s goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of people 70 and older by the end of February.

According to federal data from the American Community Survey, Colorado is home to approximately 551,000 people who are 70 and older. Tens of thousands of those people have already been vaccinated, Polis said.

As of Jan. 18, 287,179 Coloradans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That’s equal to around 5% of the state’s population.

However, full protection against COVID-19 doesn’t kick in until people receive both doses of the vaccine. Data from CDPHE show that 51,299 people, or less than 1% of Coloradans, have received both doses.

The state is currently in phase 1B of its vaccination plan and concentrating on people 70 and older.

“Right now, we know here in Colorado that 78% of our fatalities from coronavirus are over the age of 70,” Polis said.

Next in line, Polis said, are people 65 and older, followed by essential workers, such as people who work on Colorado’s farms and ranches, at restaurants or in grocery stores.

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

Polis has repeatedly expressed frustration that the state only knows the size of its weekly vaccine shipments a few days in advance, based on information from the federal government.

“We need to have more visibility of the supply chain,” the governor said. He’s asked that of President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.

People who are 70 and older but aren’t sure where to get the vaccine should call their health care provider or a community clinic. CDPHE also has a list of resources on its website.

People with questions about the vaccine can call the toll-free Colorado Health Emergency Line for the Public — CO HELP for short — at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911. The phone line is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with answers in multiple languages.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

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