Polis Announces Grant Program To Fuel Primary Care Vaccinations And Money For Students Who Get Tested

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Gov. Jared Polis at a signing ceremony for SB21-260 on Thursday, June 17, 2021, underneath Interstate 70 at the bottom of Floyd Hill, beside Clear Creek.

A new grant program announced Thursday by Governor Jared Polis will distribute money that primary care providers can use to expand vaccination access within their offices. 

Each recipient will receive $60,000 to $120,000, depending on their size. They’ll also get additional compensation for every vaccine administered. The money, provided by funds from federal relief packages, can be used for outreach, temporary staffing, and other work-related to vaccination efforts. Applications are open through November, and the state will approve them on a rolling basis.

Polis said the relationship between a doctor and their regular patient is intimate and may help persuade unvaccinated people to get a shot. Dr. Aaron Shupp, a family physician at Rocky Mountain Primary Care, said he’s been able to persuade some of his patients.

“It's far easier for patients to get their vaccine right here today, once we've had that conversation and our clinic can use this grant funding provided by this new program to get every patient who wants to get the shot vaccinated,” Shupp said.

Just over 75 percent of the vaccine-eligible population in Colorado is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccine rates have stagnated since appointments opened up to the general public, pushing the state to try new public appeal efforts, like cash incentives and scholarships. The renewed outreach campaign comes as the Delta variant continues its rapid spread through unvaccinated populations.

During his Thursday press conference, Polis also announced more testing incentives for eligible students under 18. The state recently launched a federally funded COVID-19 testing program available for school districts. Students who get tested at participating schools will now receive a $25 gift card for their first test, and $10 for each subsequent test. As of Tuesday, 447 schools from 22 districts have said they will participate.

According to Polis, six Colorado children between the ages of 12-17 are currently hospitalized. They are all unvaccinated.

Schools across the state started classes in August and are already reporting outbreaks of COVID-19. While several major school districts have announced mandatory masks for all students, several have pushed back against guidance that says children, especially those not eligible for vaccinations, should mask up in indoor settings. Polis himself has said there are no plans for a statewide student mask mandate.