Colorado aims to vaccinate all teachers over 2-3 weeks in February, Polis announces

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DENVER — Colorado aims to vaccinate all teachers and other classroom workers over 2-3 weeks in February, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday, outlining the state’s updated vaccine distribution plan.

The expanded access will begin Feb. 8 and will also include all Coloradans ages 65-69.

The state is still working to vaccine at least 70% of 70-and-up residents by the end of February but decided to incorporate teachers and 65-69 residents as soon as possible.

While there was not a timetable given for vaccinating all 65-69 Coloradans, Polis said the state aims to vaccinate all teachers in February and will re-allocate the state’s vaccine supply to make that happen.

Colorado is also expanding weekly COVID-19 tests to all teachers next week.

The expanded vaccination for educators will include teachers, as well as child care workers, paraprofessionals and anyone else who works in a classroom with children, Polis said. The eligibility applies to all Colorado schools — public, private, parochial and charter. Administrators — or anyone who is not in a primarily student-facing role — will likely receive the vaccine at a later date, Polis said.

School districts will provide information about vaccinations and coordinate vaccinations directly with employees.

Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association teachers union, thanked Polis for expanding vaccine access to educators.

“For the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to take a tremendous toll on educators, students, and their families,” Baca-Oehlert said in a statement. “While we believe that ALL essential workers should be a priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, this is a gigantic step toward our longstanding goal of getting our students back into classrooms, where the best learning takes place.”

For the general 65-69 population, the signup process will be similar to the process for 70-and-up vaccinations: Signing up through healthcare providers and local public health agencies. While those 65-and-up can begin signing up now, they still won’t be prioritized until Feb. 8, and Polis asked 65-69 residents to hold off on signing up until then.

Brigadier Gen. Scott Sherman on Friday outlined Colorado’s expected vaccine allocation over the next month.

The state expects to receive about 452,000 doses by the end of February and remains confident that all Coloradans 70-and-up — part of group 1B.1 in the state’s distribution plan — will be able to receive the vaccine during that timeframe.

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Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment incident commander, said Colorado plans to vaccinate at least 55% of group 1B.2 — Coloradans ages 65-69 and educators — by March 5, though all educators will receive the vaccine within three weeks.

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Polis’ announcement about teachers getting the vaccine came several days after educators criticized the governor for telling CNN that Colorado teachers are getting two tests per week. Some teachers pointed out that they haven’t been receiving two tests per week, and Polis’ office had to clarify that at-home tests were being shipped to educators’ homes this week.

Polis also announced a coming expansion of vaccine access to essential frontline workers, such as grocery store employees. Those workers will be in group 1B.3 and the state aims to begin vaccinating them through their employers on March 5.