Public health officials describe this week’s COVID-19 vaccine supply as ‘bleak’
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Public Health Department was the only entity to receive COVID-19 vaccines this week, and it made the decision to transfer the 200 doses — split evenly — to South Routt Medical Clinic and Lyon’s Corner Drug.
Public health nurse Brooke Maxwell said both the clinics — planned for Friday at Soroco High School in Oak Creek and Sunday at Lyon’s Corner Drug — are already fully booked.
Lyon’s is vaccinating 100 people 70 and older who were pulled randomly from public health’s interest forms, Maxwell said.
Ken Rogers, district manager of South Routt Medical Center, said his list comes from an interest from filled out at its Oak Creek location through either the website or by phone. That list is formulated on a first-come, first-served basis, he said, providing people are in the vaccination group currently allowed by the state.
The focus Friday is on South Routt residents 70 and older, especially those who may have transportation challenges in getting to Steamboat, Rogers said.
While the 100 vaccines being given out Friday are coming from public health, Rogers said he anticipates the clinic will be receiving direct shipments of the vaccine in coming weeks.
The focus in the county and state continues to be on the 70-and-older population, advancing the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of residents in that demographic by the end of February. And that statewide goal must be accomplished before the county is allowed to move on to the rest of the 1B population, Maxwell said.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, that group includes front-line essential workers in education, food and agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. postal service, public transit and specialized transportation staff, grocery, public health, front-line essential human service workers, direct care providers for Coloradans experiencing homelessness, essential officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government and essential front-line journalists.
Health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents, who were in the first group to be vaccinated, are now getting their second shots of the Moderna vaccine, which is given 28 days after the first shot.
There are about 2,600 people in the 70-plus age group in Routt County, said Maxwell. As of Monday, about 540 people in that category have been vaccinated, or about 20% of that population group.
“We have a long ways to go,” she said. “And that time frame is completely dependent on how many vaccines we receive from the state.”
Thus far, about 2,800 people have filled out the vaccine interest forms that the county uses, Maxwell said. These forms are now also available in Spanish. About 900 of those interest forms are from people ages 70 and older.
Maxwell said her team is working on reaching seniors who are homebound or don’t have internet access. The Routt County Council on Aging also is helping with outreach.
As they balance COVID-19 testing with vaccinations among limited staff, Maxwell said the focus for public health right now is on vaccinations, as there are many other options available for testing.
“When we have more entities offering vaccinations, we will have a better balance of testing and vaccinations,” she said. “We’re just trying to get shots in arms at this point.”
In addition to the vaccine supply not being as desired, Routt County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington said planning is a significant challenge because of the lack of notice of when and how many vaccine doses are coming.
“Sometimes, we don’t know when we will get shipment until it shows up,” he said, adding that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has requested two weeks advance notice for better planning at the state and county levels.
On whether Routt County is getting its fair share, Harrington said the allocation is supposed to be based on population. If Colorado is slated to receive 70,000 vaccines next week, Harrington said that means Routt County would receive 314 doses.
“Based on the math, it does seem the county thus far has been getting our fair share, but that has not been the case in the last week or two,” he said.
The vaccine allocation for Routt County during the past few weeks has been “bleak,” according to Maxwell.
“We hope to see the numbers increase,” she added.
Harrington said the county asked CDPHE for the exact Routt County population numbers it is using to allocate vaccines, but the county has yet to receive those.
People who have been vaccinated in Routt County as of Thursday, Jan. 21.
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center: 1,078 doses
Routt County Public Health: 600 doses
Lyon’s Corner Drug: 100 doses
Walgreens: 122 doses
Northwest Colorado Health: 80 doses
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center: 443 doses
Routt County Public Health: 216 doses
Walgreens: 82 doses
“Even if a county can vaccinate all the people in the first phase, the state won’t allow a county to move to the second phase until all counties are done with the first phase,” Harrington explained.
Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said the vaccination rates will likely at some point be incorporated into the state’s dial levels, which dictate restrictions.
On Monday, Polis sent a letter to vaccine providers ordering them to use any second doses they have right away. The state received large quantities of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, he said.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts, so I ask you to begin to actively manage your supply on a week-to-week basis, and do not let any vaccines sit on shelves,” Polis wrote.
He added providers should only retain enough second doses for the week of Jan. 18 to 25.
Even without the additional vaccines made available through his order Monday, Polis said Tuesday second doses should be available to Coloradans on time.
Harrington said Routt County’s providers have taken that approach from the beginning — getting the vaccines in arms as soon as possible after they are received.
“UCHealth shares the governor’s goal of providing vaccines as quickly as possible and not letting doses sit in inventory when they could be provided to people 70 or older,” said Lindsey Reznicek, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center communications specialist. “We welcome any effort to increase supplies of vaccines to Colorado.”
However, “UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has not received, nor has any indication that it will receive, vaccine allocations this week,” Reznicek said.
The hospital continues to focus on any remaining health care workers, first responders and people 70 and older, she said.
Right now, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is only vaccinating people who are health care workers, first responders or 70 or older.
Routt County Public Health Department:
Visit the website and sign up for the community newsletter and fill out the vaccine interest form online at covid19routtcounty.com/vaccine-information or call 970-870-5341
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center:
Anyone who has a My Health Connection account is automatically in UCHealth’s database and will be contacted. Patients without an account are encouraged to create one if possible. Non-patients also are able to register for the vaccine list by setting up a My Health Connection account. It’s important to remember that the notification process to receive a vaccine is random — it does not matter if you are an existing UCHealth patient or have never received care from UCHealth.
When notified to schedule a vaccine appointment, patients need to schedule both the first and second doses. Patients may not change the date of the second appointment once they have received the first dose.
South Routt Medical Center:
Fill out an interest form online at southrouttmedical.com/landing/coronavirus/ or call 970-736-8118
Lyon’s Corner Drug:
Fill out the county’s interest form, and pay attention to Lyon’s Facebook page for updates.
Harrington said so far vaccine acceptance rates appear “quite high.” The hospital reported an acceptance rate of over 90%, while Casey’s Pond now has a 70% acceptance rate among staff and 100% among residents.
Smith said she will continue to work on providing education forums for people with questions about the vaccines, especially as they become available to a wider segment of the population.
At South Routt Medical Center, Rogers said he hopes the not so distant future will bring drive-thru clinics during which 500 people can be vaccinated in a day. He lauded the South Routt School District for partnering with the clinic to provide larger facilities at which to hold clinics.
And, as always, Rogers emphasized at this time, whether “you get a vaccine or not — you don’t drop your guard. You don’t change what you are doing now. We need to keep our heads down.”
Until more data is collected, it remains unknown whether people who get vaccinated can transmit the virus or by how much transmissibility is reduced. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective in reducing deaths and severity of illness, but the transmissibility question has yet to be answered.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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More COVID-19 booster shots are getting approved, health officials are saying people can mix or match the brand of these shots, and vaccines for children between 5 and 11 are closer than ever.