Polis, CDPHE speak on updated vaccine plan

Governor Jared Polis and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment Jill Hunsaker-Ryan shared details Wednesday on the state’s vaccine rollout plan. As Colorado approaches 5,000 COVID-19 deaths, it has received 243,000 vaccines and administered 129,552, according to Polis,

 

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“We’re ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the country,” Polis said. “We’ve consistently been in the top tier of states in successfully getting the vaccine into arms. But this is not an exercise that is graded on a curve. We need to do better here in Colorado. The entire nation needs to do much better.”

According to Polis, the state is nearly finished with Phase 1A of the distribution process, and is starting to enter the recently-updated Phase 1B. Approximately 187,000 Coloradans are eligible for Phase 1A vaccinations, he said.

Coloradans age 70 and older, moderate-risk health care workers, first responders and frontline essential workers are among those prioritized in Phase 1B. Approximately 1,315,000 Coloradans are eligible for Phase 1B vaccinations, he said.

The state will move into Phase 2 in early Spring, Polis said. According to him, the general Colorado population can expect to receive the vaccine by the summer.

Polis emphasized the necessity of prioritizing vaccine allocation for Coloradans age 70 and older, saying they represent 78 percent of COVID-19-related deaths and over one third of hospitalizations in the state. Hunsaker-Ryan says the state’s goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of Coloradans age 70 and older by Feb. 28th.

“Our top priority for our administration is to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place to ensure that health care workers, and of course, Coloradans age 70 and up, can be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

Hunsaker-Ryan says Colorado is currently receiving around 70,000 vaccines per week, but expects to receive larger shipments in the upcoming months as new vaccines enter the market.

“In order to achieve our goal of saving lives and ending the health care crisis as soon as possible, our mission is to distribute vaccines as quickly as the federal supply chain allows,” Hunsaker-Ryan said. “We do ask for people to be patient, as not everyone who is eligible will receive a vaccine right away.”

She went on to say the state is partnering with local public health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and community health center clinics to distribute vaccines. The state has divided responsibilities between local public health agencies and providers to streamline distribution.

“In order to be quick and effective, we have to be flexible,” she said. “Every county is going to look a little bit different in terms of what entity is providing the vaccination, and we are going to have to problem-solve and be inventive as we go.”

She also stressed the state’s focus on considering equity in the distribution process.

“From the beginning, we have developed a distribution plan using an equity lens,” Hunsaker-Ryan said. “It aims to be responsive to the disparities that have been so pervasive throughout this pandemic. Disparities that have plagued society for years upon years, but are even more prominent during a crisis. We know that we must be deliberate about achieving equity, meeting communities where they are, and addressing vaccine hesitancies that are rooted in historical injustices.”

She cited a survey in which 70 percent of white Coloradans said they plan to receive the vaccine, while only 53 percent of black Coloradans and 56 percent of Hispanic Coloradans plan to receive it.

“We are deeply committed to overcoming systemic barriers and having an equitable distribution process that leverages community partners who are anchored in their communities and trusted, and this includes churches, employers, community centers and fire departments,” Hunsaker-Ryan said.