Getting everyone in Mesa County vaccinated is not something that will happen overnight or in a matter of weeks. It will require months of collaboration between Mesa County health officials, area hospitals and the community at large.
Changes to the state’s phased vaccine distribution plan, adding Coloradans age 70 and over to the Phase 1B, the second group to receive the vaccine, further complicated matters, according to Mesa County Public Health spokesperson Amanda Mayle.
Mesa County’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard shows Phase 1A is currently underway with only 8% of individuals in the first phase vaccinated through the hospitals to this point. So far, 3,431 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the dashboard.
Mayle said that although 8% may seem like a small number as local health-care workers started receiving the vaccine as early as mid-December, each phase will take time to get through. Phase 1 is scheduled to run through the winter, with Phase 2 beginning in the spring and Phase 3 getting completed in the summer.
“We estimated that Phase 1 will have 24,000 people. It’s a big undertaking. We’ve done a little more than 2,000 doses … that’s a lot of people in the community,” Mayle said.
Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine distribution plan includes highest-risk health-care workers and individuals, such as people with direct contact with COVID patients, and long-term care facility staff and residents.
Before the end of December, Gov. Jared Polis decided anyone 70 or older should be added to the first phase of the vaccine rollout as they make up the majority of Coloradans that have died from the virus. Counties across Colorado, such as Summit County, opened vaccination appointments to adults 70 and older on Dec. 30.
Mayle said Mesa County is in constant communication with the state and continues to prioritize the highest risk individuals to get vaccinated first.
With the expansion of those eligible to receive the vaccine, anyone age 70 and older and essential can fill out a vaccine interest form with Mesa County Public Health to be notified when vaccination appointments become available.
Residents and personnel of long-term care facilities are being vaccinated by pharmacies, and others in Phase 1A are being vaccinated through Mesa County Public Health. The majority of early Phase 1 recipients will receive the vaccine through their employer, local public health agency or through the federal government’s long-term care program. More information about the next phases will be released over the next few weeks and months.
In a press release sent out by Garfield County on Monday, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long reiterated that it won’t be until the spring and summer that phase 2 and 3 groups will begin to receive the vaccine.
“Though we are serving those in the 70 and older category, our hospitals are getting a large number of phone calls from people looking to make appointments,” Long said in the press release. “We want people to know that vaccinating everyone in this category will take some time and some patience. People who live in Garfield County and fall into this age group will be vaccinated, but it may take several weeks as we wait for enough vaccine to arrive.”
Mayle said one question MCPH continues to receive from many in the public is regarding the vaccination timeline and when the county will move to Phase 2.
Other vaccine-related questions the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has received in the past few weeks include questions regarding the vaccine and pregnancy, possible allergic reactions, whether it protects against all strains of the virus and more.
The CDPHE reports that experts believe the vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers or their babies, but recommends discussing with health care before receiving it. Mild allergic reactions to the vaccine are reported to be rare, and severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis is even more rare, the CDPHE reports.
Current evidence suggests the vaccine will protect against all known variants of COVID-19, according to the CDPHE.