Colorado is expecting to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as early as next week, but distribution to those who are not at high or moderate risk likely won’t start until the summer, state officials said Wednesday.
Colorado’s first allocation of the Pfizer vaccine, 46,800 doses, should arrive in the state next week, Polis said, but that is dependent on the federal government’s actions.
Then, a week or two after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, the state is expecting its first allotment of 95,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine, Polis said. For the initial distribution, the federal government is distributing the vaccines to states based on state population.
State officials anticipate receiving weekly shipments of the vaccine after receiving the first shipment of Moderna vaccines in mid- to late-December, said Scott Bookman, COVID-19 Incident Commander for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, during a news conference Wednesday.
“However, that all depends on the supply chain and the availability of this vaccine from the federal government,” Bookman said.
Emergency use authorization requests were filed with the FDA for the Pfizer vaccine on Nov. 20 and Moderna vaccine on Nov. 30, Bookman said.
While neither vaccine has been approved for emergency use, Bookman said he expects the Pfizer vaccine to be approved between Dec. 11 and 14, with Moderna’s approval coming about a week later.
With the Pfizer vaccine found to be 95% effective and Moderna’s 94.5% effective, Bookman said both COVID-19 vaccines are more effective than the flu vaccine and have an efficacy rate similar to that of the measles component of the MMR vaccine.
Who will be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Colorado?
Colorado officials released an updated three-phase distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccines Wednesday. Distribution for those in Phase 1 will begin immediately once the state starts receiving shipments of the vaccine, Bookman said.
All COVID-19 vaccines will be free, Bookman said.
“Our prioritization philosophy was based on how can we save the most lives and how can we end this crisis as quickly as possible,” Bookman said.
Here are the groups of Coloradans who qualify for a vaccine in Phase 1A:
- People who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period
- Long-term care facility staff and residents
Those who will be able to get the vaccine in Phase 1B include:
- Health care workers who have less direct contact with COVID-19 patients
- Workers in home health, hospice care and some dental settings
- First responders including EMS, firefighters, police officers, correctional facilities workers, dispatchers
- Funeral services workers
- COVID-19 response personnel
Bookman said those in phases 1A and 1B should be able to get vaccinated in the winter, and Phase 2 of vaccine distribution is expected to begin in the spring.
In Phase 2, higher-risk individuals and essential workers will be able to get the vaccine, including:
- People age 65 and older
- People with high-risk conditions, including obesity, diabetes, chronic lung disease, significant heart disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer or who are immunocompromised
- People who interact directly with the public, including grocery store workers and school staff
- People who work in high-density settings, like meat-packing facilities
- Those who work in an environment serving people in high-density settings
- Other health care workers not included in Phase 1
- Adults who participated in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials who received a placebo
By summer 2021, Bookman said they expect to move on to Phase 3, in which anyone in the general public will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccination. State officials aren’t sure how long Phase 3 will extend or when all Coloradans will be able to receive the vaccination.
“We’re going to need to be flexible as we learn more about this vaccine as we find the best way to allocate it across our state,” Bookman said.
Those who live in congregate living facilities, like homeless shelters or prisons, will not be prioritized specifically because of their living conditions but could have earlier access to the vaccine based on other factors in Phase 1 or 2, Polis said.
Where will vaccines be administered?
The vaccines will be stored in secure facilities at unknown locations across the state. Distribution centers have been identified across the state based on the sites’ abilities to store and monitor the vaccines at the extremely low temperature they must be kept, Bookman said, as well as their ability to help transport doses to administration sites.
With a shelf life of five days, Bookman said the state will require all health care providers to report within 72 hours if they have administered a vaccine so they can ensure no dose is wasted. All medical and immunization information about each patient will be kept confidential and will not be reported to the federal government, Bookman said.
At first, the vaccine will be administered mainly at local public health agencies, hospitals, some federally qualified health centers and some pharmacies, but as more of the vaccine comes available, more sites will open, Bookman said.
The majority of health care workers who get the vaccine in Phase 1 will receive it through their employer or local public health agency, Bookman said. Residents and staff in long-term care facilities will receive the vaccines through the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, likely through Walgreens and CVS.
More information about vaccine distribution for Phase 2 and 3 will come at a later time, Bookman said.
For more information on individual eligibility for receiving the vaccine, call 1-877-462-2911 or visit covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine.
‘We can see the end in sight’
Though “we can see the end in sight,” there is still a long road ahead in the return to pre-pandemic normalcy, Polis said.
“We need to be careful in the next few weeks here so we can bridge the time until the vaccine is distributed,” Polis said. “… This vaccine is really the gateway to the end of the pandemic to return to normalcy, so let’s double down in the next few weeks and months.”
Polis reminded Coloradans to wear masks, continue social distancing when out in public and to not socialize with people outside their households to slow the spread of the virus.
Polis said there were 3,757 new coronavirus cases reported Wednesday, which he said he hopes is a sign new cases are plateauing in the state. Hospitalization numbers have also remained steady over the last week, Polis said.
The state currently has the capacity to complete 55,000 tests daily statewide, Bookman said. They also have enough testing swabs and personal protective equipment, or PPE, to keep up testing capacity for the next calendar year.
Sady Swanson covers public safety, K-12 education and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.