Denver plans community-based vaccine rollout as opposed to mass vaccination site

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DENVER — City health officials plan to carry out a community-based vaccination plan in the coming weeks, a model Denver found success with when ramping up COVID-19 testing last year.

The plan is line with what state health officials showed a preference to this week — more locations of smaller vaccine clinics, as opposed to fewer large vaccination centers, such as Ball Arena in Denver.

Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the city found more success in testing through smaller community clinics and expects vaccine rollout to be the same, with “dozens and dozens” of locations across the city expected to have the vaccine available.

The community clinics coordinated by the city will focus on areas that might not have a nearby hospital or doctor’s office. McDonald said more information about those locations will be released over the next several weeks.

Dr. Judy Shlay of Denver Health said Denver is still in the early phases of vaccinations. Denver Health has vaccinated more than 5,000 healthcare workers — and nearly 2,000 have received a second dose — about 1,950 first responders and about 250 community partners.

Denver Health has also vaccinated more than 1,000 people 70-and-older, Shlay said.

Shlay said the city needs more doses of the vaccine but also more staffing to carry out such a large vaccination rollout.

“This is going to take time,” Shlay said. “We do need people to maintain some patience, because the vaccine will come at some point, but not right now.”

As a whole, about 3.5% of Denver residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to about 3.25% residents statewide and 2.8% Americans. McDonald emphasized those numbers to show how much longer Denver — and the country — will have to exercise caution during COVID-19.

Denver is “many, many months down the road” until the city reaches herd immunity, McDonald said.

Mayor Michael Hancock this week signed a letter with 21 other U.S. mayors, including Aurora’s Mike Coffman, asking President-elect Joe Biden to help cities get direct shipments of the vaccine, as part of Biden’s plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

Hancock on Thursday said “if we want to achieve our vaccine goal on time, we’re going to have to work more closely with states to distribute the vaccine.”