Summit County Public Health shifts main focus to providing COVID-19 support to uninsured, underinsurred

Syringes filled with COVID-19 vaccine wait to be used at the Summit Stage bus depot in Frisco on Friday, March 19, 2021. Summit County is now providing residents with free at-home testing kits to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

As Summit County continues to operate in a world without COVID-19 restrictions, some residents may find themselves wondering how they can get extra protection from the virus.

Last week, the federal government opened up the possibility for people aged 50 and older or at high risk of severe illness from the virus to get a fourth booster shot. With the fourth booster opening up to more people, it’s becoming more complicated for individual people to figure out when they can get another shot.

“It is definitely getting to the point where there are so many preparations and so much guidance out there that it can be pretty nuanced and confusing,” Summit County Nurse Manager Lauren Gilbert said. “I always tell people and strongly advise people that they should speak with their health care provider.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the fourth booster shot to people who are 50 and older who received either the Pfizer or Moderna booster at least four months ago.

However, it gets a little bit more complicated for people who are immunocompromised or at a high risk of developing a severe illness from the virus, Gilbert said. Those people may qualify for a fifth shot, but the qualifications are highly individualized and should be approved by a doctor.

The federal government also recently authorized mixing various different vaccines, Gilbert said. People who received the Johnson & Johnson initial vaccine and booster can now get a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

“With brands, there’s mixing and matching, there’s booster recommendations,” Gilbert said. “It’s definitely best for people to, if they don’t have a primary care provider, establish care with one.”

Summit County Public Health itself is transitioning into more of a background role when it comes to vaccine administration. Gilbert said the county wants to focus on providing care to people who are uninsured or underinsured, rather than overseeing the health of the entire community.

For that reason, the public health department is providing limited vaccination appointments at its offices throughout the county.

The county is continuing to play a big role in testing, Gilbert said. Although attendance has dropped in recent months, testing sites at the Silverthorne Recreation Center, Breckenridge Colorado Mountain College and Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco remain open.

“We haven’t had an expiration date for those sites really established by the state yet, and they did confirm that they’re going to continue to support (them),” Gilbert said. “We may see those testing sites go into the summer. We’re just not sure yet.”

The county is also providing free at-home testing kits to the community. The kits are available for pick-up during the operating hours at the Summit County Public Health Office, the North and South Summit County Library branches, the Family and Intercultural Resource Center and the Community and Senior Center.

Gilbert said it remains important for people to get tested whenever they have symptoms of the virus to avoid spreading it to others and protect their own health.


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