Colorado’s coronavirus vaccine rollout is confusing and frustrating — but working, state leaders say


On Thursday, Colorado Lt. Gov Dianne Primavera did what hundreds of thousands of Coloradans her age are wishing they could also do.

“I’m in the wave that’s getting the COVID vaccine,” Primavera, who is 70 and a cancer survivor, said in a video posted to Facebook as she sat next to a health worker preparing to put a needle into her arm. “I’m excited to be here and I want to encourage everyone who is 70 to sign up, get vaccinated and let’s see an end to this pandemic.”

Almost immediately, the comments on the post began filling up with stories of frustration from across the state, illustrating the turbulent way the coronavirus vaccine has rolled out.

“Pueblo we don’t even have a list for me to get on!” one commenter wrote. “I’m 70+ and nothing from our health department!!”

“I am also a cancer survivor and over 70 but on a wait list,” another wrote.

Months ago, Gov. Jared Polis, medical experts and state public health officials mapped out an orderly plan prioritizing when different groups of Coloradans can get the vaccine. But as that plan — now twice revised — has been put to use, the on-the-ground reality so far has been much less orderly.

Communities are winding their way through their own vaccination lines at dramatically different paces. Seniors in Summit and Eagle counties — among the wealthiest communities in the state and the healthiest in the nation — have already begun receiving shots, while hospitals and health departments in the Denver metro area largely don’t yet have any vaccine to spare. Cherry Creek School District developed a partnership with Centura Health to access vaccines for its staff members beginning at the turn of the year, while other districts were left scrambling to come up with their own plans. 

But the emerging disparities are also unpredictable and don’t necessarily match with an easy understanding of haves and have-nots. Among the first older Coloradans to receive the vaccine were seniors in the small, economically disadvantaged southern Colorado towns of San Luis and Center, after the state helped the communities stage drive-thru vaccination clinics.

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