Following Complaints They Were Shorted, El Paso County Will Get More COVID Vaccines

Mass Vaccination Site
Andy Cross/The Denver Post, Pool
COVID-19 vaccines await injection at the UCHealth COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic in the Coors Field parking lot Jan. 30, 2021.

El Paso County said it will get a shipment of nearly 13,000 COVID-19 vaccines early next week. The announcement came a day after the county complained to Colorado officials that it was not getting its fair share.

“Current numbers have shown that the County has not received vaccine supply proportionate to population, and this needs to be remedied quickly,” said a joint statement Wednesday from Colorado Springs and El Paso County officials.

On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis’ office said El Paso’s health department had been slow in administering the doses they already had and that thousands of vaccines remained sitting on shelves.

“We are happy to send more doses to El Paso as soon as they use the doses …. they [already] have,” said Polis spokesman Conor Cahill in an email. “And we stand ready to provide any other logistical support they may need getting shots in arms — we need our most vulnerable Coloradans immunization as soon as possible.”

However, by the end of the day, the county announced the state would deliver an extra 12,900 vaccines, directed to be mostly administered to people 70 years old and older. 

Robin Johnson, Medical Director with El Paso County Public Health, said it is true that the county had unused supplies of the vaccine before requesting more from the state. However, she noted those shots were already scheduled to be delivered to vaccination clinics and administered during upcoming events.

“I think that the implication, or what was inferred, was that somehow those vaccines were sitting there without a plan for them,” Johnson said. “That is not the case. They are already delegated and will be off the shelf in an appropriate timing.”

El Paso County Public Health deputy director DeAnn Ryberg suggested progress in distributing vaccines would be a better metric for the state to use to gauge how a county is doing in tackling COVID-19, rather than using their existing inventory numbers. El Paso County has given the first dose of the vaccines to more than 53,000 people.

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.