As Colorado continues to vaccinate people who are 70 and older, confusion remains about where and how to get vaccinated.
In early January, Frank Trainor and his wife showed up to their COVID-19 vaccination appointment at a Safeway, but they were promptly turned away. The pharmacist said they were only vaccinating people who lived in Denver County and the Trainors lived in Arapahoe County.
They were upset. Then a friend called the corporate offices and discovered the pharmacist was wrong, Safeway’s were supposed to be vaccinating anyone who was eligible and had an appointment.
COVID Vaccines In Colorado: Your Always Up-To-Date Guide To Finding The Info You Need
The bottom line is that, if eligible according to state guidelines, people with appointments can be vaccinated in counties other than where they live.
So Trainor went back to the pharmacy.
“You didn't treat me fairly,” Trainor told the pharmacist. “I'd like you to give me the shot. And by the way, I'm not arguing about the price of carrots. This is my life I'm talking about. So I'd like you to take this seriously.”
He and his wife were added to the list and got vaccinated the next day.
A spokesperson for the Albertson’s Company, which owns Safeway, said there was confusion early in January as some counties were not yet vaccinating seniors but were still vaccinating health care workers. Now, Safeways across the state are vaccinating eligible Coloradans regardless of where they live.
On Dec. 30, before all health care workers were vaccinated, Gov. Jared Polis expanded the next vaccination phase to include Coloradans who are 70 and older a higher priority, as well as some essential workers, which sent some counties scrambling to catch up. TriCounty Health announced it would not be vaccinating older Coloradans until it had finished health care workers while other counties, like Eagle, opened vaccination clinics that filled up within minutes.
The Trainors are not alone in facing this issue. Other older Coloradans have reported making appointments and being turned away. Eagle County, for example, is only vaccinating residents. The state sent a letter to Eagle and other counties urging providers not to put up barriers to vaccinations and to vaccinate anyone within the current phase.
“I know that for some Coloradans over age 70, they're frustrated and confused about how to get the vaccine,” Polis said in a press conference. “While many have gotten it, I understand that others might be on a list and might wonder why they haven't been called yet. It's simply the numbers.”
There are more than 530,000 people who are 70-and-older in Colorado, but only 155,888 have been vaccinated so far. This week, the state anticipates enough first-dose vaccines for 76,080 people and 49,380 second-dose vaccines.
The state is working to ensure equitable vaccine distribution to people of color, lower-income levels and those at higher risk, said Polis and other state officials from the health department in a news conference last week.
However, state data shows 76 percent of the vaccines have been administered to white Coloradans, which is higher than the group’s proportion of total population.
Editor's Note: A limited number of CPR News journalists have started to receive vaccinations according to the state's prioritization of essential frontline workers.