COVID Vaccine Access Expands To Children Ages 12 And Up As Colorado Tries To Combat Slowing Vaccination Rates

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Author Patrica Raybon gets a COVID-19 vaccination at Shorter AME Church in Denver, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.

As vaccine demand slows in Colorado, availability is expanding.

Employees will soon able to get inoculated at their workplaces, while the minimum age for eligibility falls to 12.

Gov. Jared Polis told reporters Tuesday the state will start offering vaccine clinics at workplaces statewide starting next week.

“That means we can work with the employer or the union or the trade association of any size. You have 30 employees, 300 employees, 3000 employees, to have a very simple on-site vaccination event,” he said. “People can just get vaccinated right over their lunch hour on break.”

As vaccination rates slow, going to where Coloradans work, learn and live

Vaccination rates in Colorado have slowed. So now, as more teens also become eligible, the push is to get shots out closer to where people live, work, or go to school.

When the site goes live in a few days, employers will be able to sign up here.

Polis said employers should know “we'll be able to get that going with you in the next week or two. We're very excited to make that convenient to employers of all sizes across our state.”  

He noted that employees in the state do get four hours of paid time off for vaccine appointments. Many employers as a best practice allow employees to stay on the clock for the entire time that they're getting the vaccine, he said. Some employers have given workers a day off to get it.

The Pfizer COVID vaccine will soon be available for children 12 years and older

Polis also said vaccines are coming soon for people as young as 12. On Monday, federal regulators expanded emergency use approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Final approval is expected Wednesday.

Polis said that the 12 to 15 age group will join the rest of the state in becoming able to get their shots as soon as this weekend.

The shots will be available for those 12 and older  “at any of the vaccination centers, local pharmacies. The parent or guardian should bring their 12- to 15-year-old. Of course, you can also do it at your doctor's office.”

Before now, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized just for those 16 and older. Clinical trials found "100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses" in study participants who were 12 to 15.

At the update, Polis did not announce a major vaccine effort for the middle- and high school-age students through schools, but suggested schools will be a key site for vaccinating young people, as they have already been around the state for those 16-18.

“So we are excited to partner with schools really the same way we partner with other organizations,” he said, adding that schools could sign up through the state website “We're really thrilled to work with any school PTA, teachers, administrators, to get that done.”

What does COVID in Colorado look like right now? Looser Mask Mandates, Vaccine Walk-Ins And Rising Cases

Teenagers and other young people have been driving a rise in COVID case rates

The biggest increase in COVID-19 infection rates in recent weeks has been among teenagers, as older Coloradans are getting vaccinated and not as many of them are getting sick.

“The best way we can make progress in reducing the rapid increases in the COVID rates among teenagers is by ensuring that people age 12 and up are able to get safely vaccinated promptly,” Polis said.

The governor said he’ll be urging pediatricians to offer vaccines at their clinics “to every person aged 12 and up whenever they come in for a checkup or any other reason.”

At the update, Polis was also asked about a move by Douglas County commissioners to lift all mask mandates in the county, even though it doesn’t have the authority to override state mask orders. 

The governor urged Coloradans to keep wearing the masks, especially for the unvaccinated and indoors, as protection against the highly transmissible disease which spreads through aerosols.

“I think taking symbolic actions that discourage mask wearing are short-sighted and unscientific,” he said.