Colorado’s pool of recipients eligible for the next wave of COVID-19 vaccines was recently expanded to include teachers, certain essential workers and individuals 70 and older, but for most it will likely take weeks to months before those vaccinations begin in Larimer County.
The county’s health department expects to complete Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine distribution plan by mid-January, vaccinating its front-line health care workers in direct contact with COVID-19 patients as well as nursing facility workers and residents first, Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment Director Tom Gonzales told county commissioners during a meeting Tuesday.
Phase 1B will be next, with vaccines first going to the prioritized group of individuals 70 years old and older. Both the state and Larimer County health departments are aiming to give 70% of these Coloradans their first vaccine dose by the end of February, Gonzales said.
Next in line will be educators, with vaccines offered to them likely in early March, Gonzales added.
It’s been nearly a week since Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the state was expanding its Phase 1B vaccine pool to include Coloradans who are 70 or older, teachers, grocery store employees and more essential workers, among other groups.
Prior to the governor’s announcement last Wednesday, Phase 1B included health care workers with less direct contact with COVID-19 patients, firefighters, police, COVID-19 response personnel, correctional workers and those in funeral services.
Since its first vaccine shipments made it to Colorado in mid-December, UCHealth has administered 31,000 vaccine doses at its vaccine clinics statewide as of Tuesday afternoon. Most of those have gone to UCHealth staff, UCHealth and community health care providers and a limited number of Colorado first responders, according to UCHealth spokesperson Kelly Tracer.
Banner Health has administered roughly 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in Larimer County as well as 1,350 in nearby Weld County as of Monday afternoon. Per the state’s vaccine distribution phases, these have largely gone to Banner Health and non-Banner health care workers, according to Banner Health spokesperson Sara Quale.
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While Larimer County is still in Phase 1A, Tracer said UCHealth has started giving out a limited number of doses to Coloradans 70 years old and older, with plans to administer more to this group as UCHealth receives additional vaccine shipments in the coming weeks.
The health care system does not get much advance notice of how many vaccines it will receive or when, so it’s not possible to estimate how many doses may become available in the upcoming weeks, Tracer said. No exact numbers for the total number of vaccines distributed in Larimer County were available Tuesday.
Once new vaccine shipments arrive, UCHealth will communicate with eligible patients through its online patient portal, My Health Connection. They will receive a message through the online system and have the opportunity to schedule their vaccination appointment, Tracer said.
There is no waiting list or signup process for getting a COVID-19 vaccine through UCHealth at this time. Eligible patients in each phase are encouraged to create an online My Health Connection account, where vaccine updates will be communicated directly to them. Patients are asked to schedule a vaccination appointment within 48 hours of receiving a message through the system, according to Tracer.
While Banner Health has not given out any vaccines to Larimer or Weld County residents in Phase 1B yet, the health care system has called a limited number of patients 70 years old and older to fill vaccine appointment for when doses become available, according to Sara Quale.
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Banner Health intends to solidify plans this week for how it will offer vaccines to more people in vaccine phase 1B, Quale said.
As Larimer County shifts to Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution plan, Gonzales said his department will have a larger role in vaccine distribution.
And as more people qualify for access to the vaccine in the plan’s later phases, Gonzales told the commissioners that the county health department is preparing The Ranch facility in Loveland as a mass vaccination site, with vaccines being administered there as soon as the end of February.
“As of now, looking at our timeline, that’s probably where we’ll end up,” Gonzales said.
Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.