Routt County’s COVID-19 vaccine supply shows slight improvement
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As Routt County faces its highest level of COVID-19 cases to date, things are improving slightly on the vaccine front.
Incoming shipments from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are still far less than desired, but more COVID-19 vaccines were delivered this week than last week.
The Routt County Public Health Department received 100 doses on Friday, said Public Health Nurse Brooke Maxwell, though each week, she submits orders for 1,000.
“I’d take 400,” she said, adding the county has plans for a mass-vaccination event. “We have the venue, we have the dates — we just don’t have the vaccine.”
There were also 90 doses public health was able to use as first doses, which had been initially provided as second doses.
On Sunday, Lyon’s Corner Drug stretched 96 doses out of 90 doses transferred to the pharmacy from public health. They were given to people 70 and older based on a list from public health.
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs received 200 doses this week, whereas last week, the hospital didn’t receive any.
“We are getting more shots in arms this week than expected,” said Routt County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington.
Steamboat resident Jack Ferguson, 78, said the uncertainty has been frustrating. He’s talked to friends from other counties who were able to get a number, which gave them a sense of where they were on the list or were able to schedule an appointment a week or at least several days ahead of time.
Routt County public health officials, as well as the hospital and Lyon’s Corner Drug, have said they often don’t know when vaccines are coming until a day or so in advance, and they don’t always know how many doses are in the shipment until the box arrives.
Ferguson said he had signed up on four different lists and waited in person at Lyon’s Drugs, only to miss out by one person ahead of him in line.
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.
State hotline: 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926)
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.
UCHealth COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline: 720-462-2255
South Routt Medical Center:
Fill out an interest form online at southrouttmedical.com/landing/coronavirus/ or call 970-736-8118
Northwest Colorado Health:
Fill out an interest form at northwestcoloradohealth.org/what_we_do/covid-19-vaccine-testing.html or call 970-871-7620
Last night, Ferguson got a call from Northwest Colorado Health letting him know he would be able to receive a vaccine Thursday.
The advance planning piece is supposed to improve. This week, the Biden administration announced states will now have three weeks advance notice of how many vaccines they will be receiving.
The administration also said it would increase supplies by about 16% for the next three weeks and will be purchasing enough doses to vaccinate most of the U.S. population with two doses by the end of the summer.
Maxwell said the focus for public health this week is on second doses. As of Monday, she said 750 people who are 70 or older have received their first doses in Routt County. Of those 750, 458 have been administered at the hospital.
That represents about 25% to 30% of the county’s estimated population in that age group, she said.
“We have to meet 70% before we are able to move on,” Maxwell said.
As of Wednesday, about 156,000 people 70 and older across Colorado had received a vaccine. That age group represents more than three-fourths of the COVID-19 deaths in Colorado.
Maxwell said the state is indicating teachers will be at the top of the list of essential workers once that 70% of 70 and older goal is met across the state.
“That will play an essential part in keeping kids in school,” she said.
With a total of 2,359 people in Routt County receiving first doses, that represents about 9% of the population, Harrington said. Of those, 771 are now “fully immunized,” having received their second doses.
A total of 1,771 doses have been administered by the hospital.
Public health officials are still waiting on the state for the population number being used to calculate Routt County’s allocation of vaccines, Harrington said.
An issue across the country has been “vaccine tourism” — people traveling from outside states or countries to get their vaccine.
In Summit County, it was reported that one-third of vaccines went to people who don’t live in the county. However, according to officials, those are people who live in neighboring counties and work in Summit County.
At South Routt Medical Center, District Manager Ken Rogers said state officials told him he cannot ask for address verification.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said the state will send a “stern warning” to providers who won’t let residents from other Colorado counties receive vaccines. Polis said if it is a continuing problem, the state could stop sending vaccines to those providers.
Across the county
On Sunday, 112 people 70 and older were vaccinated in Oak Creek through a partnership with South Routt Medical Center, Routt County Public Health and the South Routt School District.
This week, Rogers said the clinic received 100 doses in its first direct shipment. Those doses will go to people who schedule appointments directly with the Oak Creek clinic, and all 100 of those have been booked.
Now that Ferguson does have an appointment, he said he will be calling the other places where he is on a list to let them know. But he added he hopes the process can become more centralized.
Maxwell asked people not to fill out the county’s vaccine interest form multiple times, so she doesn’t have to go through and pull out duplicates.
“If you filled it out five times, it does not move you higher on the list,” she said.
Lyon’s Drug is directing people to fill out the county’s form, as that’s where its list is coming from.
According to Maxwell, the implementation of new scheduling software is underway, which should help to streamline the process.
At this time, public health is the entity coordinating among all approved vaccine administrators. More providers are awaiting approval, but for now, it remain limited to public health, the hospital, Northwest Colorado Health, South Routt Medical Center and Lyon’s Drug.
On Monday, the Brazil COVID-19 variant was first identified in the U.S. in Minnesota, raising more questions about the efficacy of the vaccine against variants.
Moderna and Pfizer acknowledged this week their vaccines may require some modification and boosters to adapt to new and future variants of the virus.
The vaccines are showing to still be highly effective against the U.K. variant, but they are showing some reduction in efficacy with the South African variant and possibly with the Brazil variant.
Moderna has already begun developing a new vaccine that could be used as a booster against the South African variant, which has not yet been identified in the U.S.
There are concerns and growing evidence the variants are more transmissible than the original variant.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.