One More COVID Vaccination Sub-Group Before The General Public Is Eligible Kicks Off On Friday

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Medical assistant Yasmin Tellez preps a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at Globeville’s Clinica Tepeyac. Jan. 26, 2021.

On Friday, the last sub-group of Phase 1B becomes eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Then, the general public can start getting the vaccine, which Gov. Jared Polis said will start in April.

The last 1B subgroup includes anyone in Colorado who is 50 or older as well as frontline workers in higher education, food service, journalism, manufacturing, public transit, public health, human services, faith communities, some state and local government divisions, and services to homeless populations.

The state also expanded the qualifications for people with high-risk medical conditions starting Friday. People who have one high-risk condition are now eligible, including these additions to the list: 

  • Moderate or severe asthma
  • Cerebrovascular disease (conditions that affect the brain’s blood supply)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system due to a bone marrow transplant, immune-suppressing medications, or other causes
  • HIV
  • Neurologic conditions, including dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (damaged or scarred lungs)
  • Thalassemia (genetic disorder with abnormal red blood cells, which carry oxygen)

Cases and hospitalizations have plateaued over the last month according to state data and have generally been declining since November. The case positivity rate has stayed below 4 percent, which public health officials look at to determine community spread and testing adequacy.

But, just this week cases spiked by 45 between Monday and Tuesday — a 16 percent jump from 283 to 328, the biggest spike since late November. Colorado isn’t out of the woods, yet.

“That's very exciting,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

But he cautioned that Coloradans need to stay vigilant until everyone is fully vaccinated. That means both doses of either Pfzer or Moderna or the single-dose of Johnson and Johnson — and a two-week waiting period after vaccination.

Data from Israel shows infections decreased by 46 percent three weeks after the first dose, and fall over 90 percent after the second dose. New recommendations from the CDC are expected in the coming weeks to advise on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people, France said.

“If we're going to be out and about and we've had one dose, we cannot let down our guard, we need to wear our masks,” he said in a press conference. “We need to stay 6 feet apart, wash our hands, keep distance, because we may be infected.”

Another concern is COVID-19 variants, four of which have been detected in Colorado and account for less than 350 confirmed cases. But as long as the virus is spreading in the community, the higher the likelihood of more variants and worse outcomes.

The variants, especially those first documented in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil have hampered efforts to bring the virus under control in many locations.

“While there is some evidence that vaccines may be less effective against variants of concern, we know that the currently authorized vaccines available will still produce an effective immune response against these variants that are currently circling in Colorado,” said Dr. Emily Travanty, director of the state public health laboratory. “And we urge everyone to get vaccinated.”

For many, vaccine appointments have been hard to come by. Next week, the state will have six mass vaccination sites in various parts of the state ready to vaccinate thousands of people a day. 

“We designed these sites to have the capability to administer 6,000 doses per day,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, who heads the UCC Vaccine Joint Task Force. “And it is certainly our plan to ramp up these sites and operate them six days per week as the vaccination supply increases and as we transition into phase two and the general population.”

The Mass Vaccination Sites include: 

  • Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, starting March 22 for four days a week and up to 2,000 people a day. Schedule appointments through Centura Health or call (720) 263-5737. 
  • Grand Junction Convention Center on the Western Slope, will be open five days a week soon. To schedule an appointment, visit the Mesa County Public Health website.
  • Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, starting March 22. Schedule appointments through Centura Health or call (720) 263-5737. 
  • Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, starting March 22. Schedule appointments through Centura Health or call (720) 263-5737. 
  • The Ranch events complex in Loveland, starting March 22. Appointment information is not yet available. 
  • Ball Arena in Denver, starting April 1. Appointment information is not yet available. 

Before the snowstorm last week, Colorado received 325,600 doses. This week, the CDC started shipping doses on Tuesday, and Colorado has received 324,910 doses.

At the end of the month, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is expected to increase to 60,000 doses that week, and then continue to increase to 90,000 doses a week in April. Plus, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to have thousands more doses available in April.

Polis said the state should receive about 400,000 doses per week by the end of April, which would be enough to meet anticipated demand bringing Colorado closer to its goal of vaccinating every Coloradan who wants one.

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.