The Man In Charge Of Overseeing Colorado’s Vaccine Effort Says He Expects Rollout To Speed Up

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A vial of Moderna’s vaccine at the Otero County Health Department’s mass COVID-19 vaccination drive-through clinic for those 70 and older at the Arkansas Valley Fairgrounds in Rocky Ford on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

The general leading the state’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine said that the holidays slowed efforts, but next week will see a dramatic increase in the number of Coloradans getting injections. 

Currently, the state has far more vaccines than it has administered to people, prompting critics to question the pace of the process. Colorado has 90,000 unused doses with another 49,000 expected next week, but has only vaccinated 139,000 people with a first dose, and another 5,500 with the two required doses.

But Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman of the Colorado National Guard said with more hospital systems and clinics now calling patients for appointments and offering online sign-ups, that will change quickly.

“We're getting to a point where we'll be begging Operation Warp Speed for more vaccine and we will have to limit the amount of doses that we give to spread it around to the state,” Sherman said.

He said the state administered over 12,000 vaccines Thursday and he expects an even higher daily count in the weeks to come as long as the state can keep getting the vaccine.

Colorado gets about 1.7 percent of the nation’s vaccine supply from the federal government because Colorado makes up 1.7 percent of the nation’s population, Sherman said. 

In a typical fall season, about 200,000 people a week are vaccinated for influenza. Sherman said if the state were able to mirror that with the COVID-19 vaccine, normal life would be able to resume more quickly.

“If we could get there on supply and make sure that vaccine is in every facility, we'd be through this pandemic,” he said. “In six to eight months we'd be done.” 

As the number of people eligible for the vaccine increases, pharmacies across the state are expected to play a bigger role in administering vaccines. 

Sherman said the state is working with all of the grocery chains and pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS — which are also responsible for vaccinating senior home residents and staff — to begin preparing for mass vaccinations. Many currently offer vaccines for viruses like the flu and shingles.

“The pharmacies already have the system set up to actually schedule vaccines,”  he said. 

The Colorado Pharmacist Society issued a press release today stating that it looked forward to working alongside health providers to “optimize COVID-19 vaccination efforts.”

The group said there are about 1,000 registered pharmacies in Colorado and 90 percent of all Americans live within five miles of a community-based pharmacy.