Polis: Colorado moves to next COVID-19 vaccination phase, including teachers, on Feb. 8

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Colorado is moving to vaccination Phase 1B.2 — which now includes educators — beginning on Feb. 8, Gov. Jared Polis announced at a press conference on Friday.

Included in this phase are Coloradans age 65-69, essential government workers and pre-K through 12th-grade educators. Polis provided details about the vaccination plan and change in phases, saying he believes all Colorado educators will be vaccinated by Feb. 28. 

“This is a big next step,” Polis said. “We’re moving on to be able to get anybody age 65 and up vaccinated, along with our teachers and educators that so many of us rely on for our kids’ future.”

The state will use about one-third to half of the vaccines received to vaccinate educators until the process is complete, Polis said, adding that he expects it to take just a few weeks. 

He did not have an estimate for when educators at universities and community colleges will be eligible for vaccination.

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Polis said the decision was made to “recognize and elevate the profession of educators in our society” and assist in students learning effectively in person. 

“We know that online has been very difficult and only extenuated some of the existing inequities in education,” said Polis, adding that it’s important to “keep our schools in person in as safe a way as possible to have as normal a spring semester as possible.”

John Robinson, president of the Poudre Education Association teachers union, said he and members of the association are “ecstatic.”

“This is result of the advocacy and hard work our union has been doing with the governor’s office since November,” Robinson said. “We are eager to get our members vaccinated so we can return to the classrooms and educate our students in a safe and healthy manner.”

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The state hopes to move to Phase 1B.3 — vaccinating essential frontline workers and Coloradans with two or more comorbidities — by early March, Polis said.

Polis credited this progress in part to the the Biden administration with providing visibility about vaccine supply for the next three weeks. He said because of the increase in doses and awareness of how many Colorado will receive, state officials were able to determine that vaccinating educators and people 65 and up was a realistic next step.

Polis was accompanied by Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, the director of the Colorado National Guard, who estimated that the state will receive roughly 452,000 vaccines from Jan. 25 through the end of February. The Colorado National Guard is responsible for vaccine distribution in the state.

People age 65-69 will continue to register for vaccination through medical providers, but educators will receive their vaccinations through their employers.

The state will also provide testing every five days for all educators who want it beginning next week, Polis said. 

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Officials also provided an update on Phase 1B.3, which is now expected to begin in early March and includes approximately 1.15 million frontline workers and people at high risk. Frontline workers are being instructed to work with their employers to receive the vaccine, while people with comorbidities will likely receive their vaccines in the same way those 65 and up are being instructed to do, according to Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Polis also provided an update on Phase 1A goals. He said 90% of first and second doses have been administered to frontline health care workers, which is why the state is moving “full speed ahead” in vaccinating 70% of people 70 and older. After the vaccinations from Jan. 29 are counted, Polis said the state will be halfway to meeting that goal. 

“Here in Colorado, we’re doing everything we can to win the race against time, the race against the virus and its more contagious variants,” Polis said. 

“Every vaccine administered is one step closer to ending the pandemic.” 

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.