Gov. Polis urges public caution, presents Colorado’s vaccination distribution plan
FRISCO — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has joined Summit County officials in sending a pointed message to the community: “We’ve got to bring this under control.”
“Given that we don’t have a safe and effective vaccine today — we will not have one tomorrow or next week — we are very concerned about the number of cases,” Polis said at a news conference on Friday, Oct. 16.
According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Colorado reported 993 cases on Friday, nearing the 1,005 cases reported on Monday, Oct. 12 — the highest number of cases reported in the state in one day.
The good news is that Colorado’s hospitals have not yet been overrun. St. Anthony Summit Medical Center has only seen one hospitalization since July. However, that doesn’t mean there should be no cause for concern, Polis said.
“I really can’t emphasize strongly enough how concerning these trends are,” he said. “We are not currently threatening our hospital capacity, but if you extrapolate the same trend we’ve seen for the next few weeks, we could be in trouble for the next few weeks and next month.”
Polis’ message of urgency and concern is one that has been echoed by Summit County officials. At a board of health meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, Public Health Director Amy Wineland urged the community to start taking the virus more seriously.
“The COVID suppression is really a communitywide responsibility,” Wineland said. “It’s going to take all of us to turn this train around.”
At Friday’s news conference, Polis and other state officials presented on the state’s plan for vaccine distribution once one is available. The plan is being sent to the Centers for Disease Control for approval, he said.
Pfizer announced Friday that it’s hoping to have a vaccine available for emergency use as soon as late November.
“That does not mean that they are widely available in late November, early December,” Polis said. “We are expecting limited supply at first which is why this plan and prioritization is so important for folks to understand.”
Because the state won’t initially have enough doses of the vaccine to cover the entire population, it has had to come up with a plan for which groups will be prioritized for vaccination.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the state has created a steering committee dedicated to vaccine planning. The planning team has created three phases for how the vaccine will be distributed.
Phase 1 will have the vaccine only available in “certain health care settings,” such as hospitals and nursing homes.
“This is why it’s critical that everyone continue to follow public health guidance such as mask wearing, social distancing and limiting small gatherings until the vaccine is widely available and used,” Hunsaker Ryan said.
The second phase will have vaccines available in broader health care settings, such as the public health departments and pharmacies. In the third and final phase, the vaccine will be widely available and eventually be incorporated into routine vaccination programs, Hunsaker Ryan said.
“We have first prioritized populations most at risk for catching COVID-19, such as health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes,” she said.
Summit County has already started preparing for widespread distribution of the vaccine by hosting drive-thru flu vaccination drives. The county’s next drive is from 2-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The county is hoping to have as many patients as possible, so it can practice for when a vaccine for the virus is available.
“We really want to be at capacity with as many people as possible to really test our ability to get the vaccine through the drive-thru model,” Public Health spokesperson Nicole Valentine said at a Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
To schedule an appointment for the flu shot drive, visit the county’s website or call 970-668-9161.
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