About 1 in every 9 Routt County residents has been fully vaccinated, eligibility expands Friday | SteamboatToday.com

About 1 in every 9 Routt County residents has been fully vaccinated, eligibility expands Friday

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — More than half of Routt County residents 70 and older have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, as Colorado prepares to widen eligibility for those who can receive the shots as more supply of the vaccine may soon be available.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use Saturday, making it the third vaccine with such approval. Colorado expects to receive more than 400,000 doses of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine by the end of March, with about 45,000 coming this week.

“I do think we are going to see more supplies than what we have been seeing open up here in March,” said Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith at Wednesday’s board of health meeting.

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and South Routt Medical Center got about 100 doses last week. The Routt County Public Health Department did not receive any more first shots though and has not for two weeks.

“We are seeing some of our other providers receive vaccine, just public health, we did not,” Smith said.

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Smith said Safeway, City Market and Walmart pharmacies are part of the federal government’s program and are receiving doses, with each getting 100 doses this week. These entities are getting names from the Routt County Public Health Department and calling to set up appointments.

Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County chief medical officer, said state officials have implied there could soon be a surge in vaccine supply from the federal level as soon as April.

“There is certainly hope out there that in the not too distant future there will be widespread vaccine available,” Harrington said.

Smith added that private medical clinics also are eligible to receive vaccine and will begin providing the shots when supplies are distributed to them. In an interview last week, Harrington said his clinic has been applying to get vaccines every week but has not received any yet.

By the numbers: Routt County resident vaccinations

1 dose – 4866 – 19%

2 doses – 2868 – 11%

1 dose, 70 and older – 1981 – 76%

2 doses, 70 and older – 1409 – 54%

1 dose, 65 and older – 2727 – 65%

2 doses, 65 and older – 1514 – 36%

Note: These numbers reflect Routt County residents vaccinated, and not all vaccinations administered in the county are included.

In a Friday news conference, Brigadier General Scott Sherman with the Colorado National Guard, who is in charge of vaccine distribution in Colorado, said the state is expecting a strong increase in vaccines toward the end of this month and is working to set up six mass vaccination sites across the state, but just one is planned for the Western Slope.

Almost one in every five people in Routt County have received a first dose of the vaccine and about one in every nine people have received a second dose as well, according to the county’s dashboard, which was last updated Friday. About 76% of those 70 and older have gotten the first shot, with 54% also getting the second.

The state has given the first dose to 67% of people 70 and older, and Gov. Jared Polis said in a news conference Friday he was confident Colorado would reach the 70% goal by the end of the day Sunday. Polis said he still wanted to push that number higher, even as the state moves on to vaccinating other groups of people as well.

While local public health officials would like for 100% of people in every group to get vaccinated, Smith said some people will be hesitant.

State COVID-19 modeling released last week shows that in optimistic vaccine availability scenarios, Colorado could reach herd immunity in mid to late summer. But it could be later if a more transmissible variant takes hold.

On Friday, Polis released a revised vaccine distribution plan that will open up eligibility to about a million more people Friday. Those 60 and older and workers in grocery stores and agricultural food production are now in the 1B.3 group. The group also includes anyone 16 and older with two or more high-risk health conditions.

Other essential workers who were previously slated to be eligible March 5 will have to wait until March 21 to get vaccinated, though Polis said that date could change “by a day or two.” People 50 and older also will become eligible in the new 1B.4 group, which consists of about 2.5 million people.

“This is the last complex phasing,” Polis said. “It just goes to age-based, general public after this phase.

“When you’re up, get vaccinated. Don’t think twice, don’t feel guilty, sign up and do it,” Polis added.

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