Gov. Jared Polis expanded the criteria for people who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccination, but it may be some time before people actually receive it.
“We haven’t received it yet,” Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said of the actual vaccines. “Nor have we received further information or plans from the state.”
Polis on Wednesday expanded the “Phase 1B” category for people who qualify for the vaccine to include people older than 70, first responders and essential workers, such as teachers, grocery store and postal workers, among others.
But that doesn’t mean those people will immediately receive the vaccine, SJBPH said.
Vaccines are still limited, and health officials in Southwest Colorado are still using available ones for people in the “Phase 1A” category, which includes high-risk health care workers who have direct contact with the virus and long-term facility staff members and residents.
Polis announced the expansion of Phase 1B, but did not provide the actual vaccines to serve people in the category, or a plan how it will be widely distributed throughout communities across the state, Jollon said.
“We’re looking forward to this information as much as anyone else,” she said.
SJBPH has not started any sign up or waiting lists, Jollon said, because the health department doesn’t know what the structure will look like for distributing the vaccine to the general public until the state provides guidance.
“People want to know if they can sign up on a list right now,” she said. “Hang tight. We’re really sorry there isn’t more information yet.”
In recent weeks, Southwest Colorado has seen the arrival of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, which has been directed to places like Mercy Regional Medical Center, where health care workers are at high risk of contracting the virus.
At the moment, however, there’s no estimated time frame for when the vaccine could be available to the general public, or how people will get it.
“We’re thrilled Phase 1B was expanded,” Jollon said. “But there’s a lot of work that has to happen, really fast. And as information is provided, we will share it as soon as we get it.”
In his announcement, Polis said people older than 70 account for nearly 80% of COVID-19 deaths, which is why he expanded Phase 1B.
“To end the acute phase of the crisis, the potential for overrunning our hospitals, bringing the death rate down, saving lives and ending the pandemic, we wanted to use those initial doses on age 70 and up,” Polis said at a news conference Wednesday.
But according to a report in The Colorado Sun, the announcement set off a flurry of questions: When will Phase 1A be finished? How will Phase 1B be rolled out? Will people have equal access to vaccines?
Polis, according to the Sun, did not have answers to those questions.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website, Phase 1A and 1B are expected to be completed this winter.
Then, Phase 2, which includes people aged 60 to 69, as well as younger people who have high-risk medical conditions, will be able to receive the vaccine, which the state estimated will happen in the spring.
CDPHE estimated that the general public will have access to the vaccine this summer.
CDPHE said it expects the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines to be very limited for several months, which means a vaccine will not be immediately available to everyone who wants one.
“To be as fair and efficient with distribution as possible, the state has developed a phased approach to vaccine distribution to save lives and end the crisis that has been brought on by the pandemic as quickly as possible,” CDPHE said.