State aims to vaccinate every Coloradan 70 and older by end of February

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DENVER | Colorado has a goal of vaccinating everyone age 70 and older by the end of February, and they plan to get the job done through partnering with major hospital systems and community clinics.

There are 1,511 new cases of COVID-19 in Colorado and 833 people hospitalized with the virus, Gov. Jared Polis said in a Tuesday news conference, where he provided information about the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

The state, which has faced criticism for an unclear vaccine rollout, is prioritizing the elderly because those 70 and older account for 78% of deaths and 40% of hospitalizations, Polis said.

Once all who want to be vaccinated are, “we’ll see significant reduction in fatalities and hospitalizations” he added.

“You should have no barriers to getting a vaccine if you’re 70 and up,” Polis said. The only constraint is time, since the state is currently getting about 70,000 doses of the vaccine each week.

Half goes out to hospitals, 20% to community health clinics, 20% to community partnerships like local public health agencies, and 10% to retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, which are under contract to vaccinate long term care facilities.

Centura Health CEO Peter Banko and UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer Richard Zane joined Tuesday’s conference to discuss how their hospital systems are distributing the vaccine.

There have been some hiccups early on in the process, Banko admitted.

“Vaccinating millions is new to all of us,” he said.

Centura is currently receiving about 9,000 doses of the vaccine per week and by mid-February will ramp up to 22,000. The network is setting up 35 vaccine clinics throughout the state to reach people.

UCHealth is distributing about 35,000 doses per week, Zane said. People in the eligible age group who already have a UCHealth account will be automatically invited to get the vaccine. Those who don’t can go to www.uchealth.org/covidvaccine to register. People who register through that link will be randomized and placed in line for the vaccine, he said.

The hospital system also created a phone line to reach people who do not have internet access so they can set up appointments, too.

John Santistevan from Salud Family Health Centers said that Salud is partnering with the state to reach underserved communities across Colorado. It will have a vaccination clinic in Aurora on Thursday and Friday in partnership with UCHealth.

Individuals need to pre-register in order to be vaccinated at a clinic, Santistevan said. He asked people to use Salud’s website instead of calling, because staff can’t keep up with call volume.

Vaccines are free for everyone regardless of immigration status and do not require insurance, Polis said. People offering a vaccine for a free are scammers.

Currently, one in 105 Coloradans are contagious with COVID-19, Polis said. He asked people to continue to be responsible as vaccine distribution is underway.

“Let’s continue to wear masks whenever you’re around others in public, stay 6 feet away from people and avoid social interactions with people from outside your home,” he said.

 

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