Colorado to start vaccinating educators and people age 65 and older
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect comments from Summit School District spokesperson Mikki Grebetz.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced on Friday, Jan. 29, that pre-K through 12th grade educators and people who are at least 65 years old will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Feb. 8.
Until Feb. 8, the state will continue vaccinating the currently eligible group — people who are 70 years and older, health care workers and first responders. Although 90% of health care workers have been vaccinated, the state still hasn’t reached its goal of vaccinating 70% of the 70-and-older population.
As of Friday, 34% of the state’s 70-and-older population have been vaccinated, Polis said. However, officials anticipate that number will rise to 50% by the Feb. 8 date.
“What happens when you get to about 50% of the eligible group is it starts to slow down, meaning everyone who’s on a list has gotten it or will get it soon or is scheduled,” he said. “So it’s really important to open it up before you get to 70%. If you wait that long, you’re going to have a two week or three week period where you’re not administering as many doses as you get.”
The announcement comes with a new vaccination distribution plan. The new plan now splits Phase 1B into three parts.
Currently, the state is in phases 1A and 1B.1, which include health care workers, first responders and people 70 years and older. Phase 1B.2, which begins on Feb. 8, will include educators, childcare providers and people who are 65 or older.
At a news conference on Friday, Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incidence commander, said the term “educators” isn’t limited to teachers. It includes anyone who makes a school function, such as bus drivers, custodial staff and school administration.
The state estimates there are 408,100 people in Phase 1B.2. With that number and supply chains in mind, Polis said the state expects to be able to vaccinate 55% in that phase by March 5.
Polis said the goal is to support all of society by having students be able to go to school in person.
“When there’s a class out or two classes out or a whole school has to go online for two weeks that can also be disruptive, not just for the kid’s education … but also for families,” he said. “We’ve seen a startling increase in gender disparities in the workplace in earning as many second spouses, and often in many cases it’s women, drop out of the workplace because there’s no school for their kids to go to.”
Phase 1B.3, which the state hopes to begin on March 5, includes people who are essential workers and people who have two or more comorbidities — conditions that deem them high risk of a severe illness from the virus.
Bookman said anyone whose job requires them to be in person and is essential to the functioning of society falls within the “essential workers” category. Some examples are grocery store workers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, faith leaders and direct care providers for people who are experiencing homelessness.
The governor anticipates moving on to Phase 2, which includes people who are aged 60 years and older and people who have at least one high risk condition, in the spring. The state doesn’t anticipate being able to vaccinate the rest of the population, which are included in Phase 3, until the summer.
Although the new phase begins in just a little over a week, Summit County officials have indicated they’re prepared to meet demand as long as the doses are there.
At a Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28, the Summit County’s Emergency Management Director Brian Bovaird said his team is working to expand the capacity of doses it can administer at drive-thru distribution events from 1,000 to about 3,000.
“If you go by just our population numbers then that would be roughly 10% of our population in one day that would get vaccinated,” Bovaird said. “But we know that … it’s not a Summit County issue, it’s a statewide effort.”
Bovaird said that being able to provide more vaccines, the county hopes to help in the overall effort to vaccinate people across Colorado, not just local residents.
How to sign up for the vaccine
Polis also gave an update on how people who are in Phase 1B.2 can sign up to be vaccinated.
For the general public, people can sign up by visiting COCovidVaccine.org. People can also visit SummitCountyCO.gov/vaccine to schedule an appointment with local providers or at the county’s vaccination drive.
Educators and essential workers, once they are eligible in Phase 1B.3, will be vaccinated through their employer.
Summit School District officials have already started planning for vaccine distribution. District spokesperson Mikki Grebetz said officials are currently working on having those plans ready for Feb. 8.
Polis said that even with the new announcement, people should be patient when looking to schedule an appointment.
“Everybody will have the chance to get this vaccine, but everybody can’t get it at once,” he said.
Join me for an important update regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Colorado. Today we will talk about when teachers and Coloradans 65+ will start receiving vaccinations.Posted by Governor Jared Polis onFriday, January 29, 2021
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