Polis: “We need to do better” with Colorado vaccine distribution, as confusion remains for 70-and-up

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DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday acknowledged “we need to do better” in administering available COVID-19 vaccine doses in Colorado, but he asked for patience as confusion remains over how residents 70 and older can receive the vaccine.

Polis last week announced that Colorado’s 70-and-up population would have access to the vaccine, though it remained unclear over the last week how those residents could receive a dose.

Some county health agencies have offered online signups for older residents to make a reservation to receive the vaccine, but a process for widespread vaccination of the 70-and-up population had either not been announced or not made clear to Coloradans wanting to get vaccinated.

Polis on Wednesday acknowledged the state’s vaccine distribution may seem “chaotic, as you’re building the car while you’re driving it, but in the meantime you’re getting the vaccine in the arms of 70 and up.”

“I believe a delay [in announcing 70-and-up vaccine availability] would have been very costly, in lives,” Polis said. “We want to show we have the urgency that the moment calls on, moving forward at the fastest rate possible … We want to get it done, rather than wait until everything is cued up and ready and neat and organized. We want to convey this is a crisis. Extreme times call for extreme measures. The chaos is not desirable but the benefits of going as quickly as possible far outweighs any benefit of delaying until all things are lined up.”

Dr. Jill Hunsacker Ryan, the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Wednesday that vaccine distribution will continue on a varying, localized basis, with local health agencies holding clinics and possibly drive-through clinics, and local health systems helping vaccinate 70-and-up patients.

Ryan cautioned that not everyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine now will get a dose immediately, as the vaccine distribution is still dependent on the state’s supply of doses. But Ryan said the state expects all 70-and-up residents to be vaccinated by the end of February, with teachers beginning to receive the vaccine by early March.

“We do ask for people to be patient,” Ryan said.

As of Wednesday, 129,552 vaccine doses had been administered in Colorado. The state has received about 243,000 vaccine doses.

Polis on Wednesday said health systems such as Centura Health, UC Health and Denver Health are setting up online patient portals for 70-and-up residents to sign up for vaccine appointments.

Coloradans should check with their healthcare providers to know when a vaccine will be made available to them. Residents can also check with their local public health agencies about information on vaccine availability and clinics. The state was also creating a one-stop website with information on vaccine distribution from each health system and health agency.

“This is all being done in real-time,” Polis said.

Polis on Wednesday again emphasized the importance of getting 70-and-up residents vaccinated, saying that age group accounts for 78% of COVID-19 deaths in Colorado.

Learn more about the vaccine in Colorado on the CDPHE website.

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Polis said the state anticipates all local health agencies will have a process in place by next week to distribute their share of available vaccines. Health agencies in Summit and Eagle counties have already begun vaccine clinics for 70-and-up residents this week, and reservations for shots filled up quickly.