The first COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Routt County |

The first COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Routt County

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has received its initial allocation of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Wes Hunter, director of pharmacy, and Victoria McGuire, pharmacy procurement specialist, move the vaccine from the loading dock under the watchful eye of YVMC security manager Michael Bostock. (UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center/courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived Wednesday at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, with the first vaccinations of frontline health care workers scheduled to begin early Thursday.

Gov. Jared Polis encouraged the 21 initial recipient sites across Colorado to administer the vaccines within 72 hours of arrival.

The Steamboat hospital is serving as a hub of vaccine distribution for the region and was the recipient of one of 10 ultracold freezers purchased by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“We’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vaccine, as this is hopefully the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” said Wes Hunter, director of pharmacy at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “It’s very exciting, and I know something many of us in health care will always remember.”

Wes Hunter, director of pharmacy, and Victoria McGuire, pharmacy procurement specialist, unpackage the COVID-19 vaccine. Hunter pushed the “Stop Shipment” button, signaling the shipment had been received. (UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical/courtesy)

Of the 40,000 Pfizer vaccines shipped to Colorado, a respiratory therapist in Fort Collins was the first person to receive the vaccine Monday.

“The beginning of vaccinations this week is a moment of sunshine in what has been a dark COVID-19 year in so many ways for so many people,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health chief medical officer. “Similar to my mother’s memory of the first polio vaccine in 1955, the COVID-19 vaccine can now lift our fear of the disease and lift our fear of its impact on our social and economic life.”

The vaccines will be administered according to plans set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CDHPE.

The first group, called group 1A, includes people who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. It also includes long-term care facility staff and residents.

Wes Hunter, director of pharmacy, and Victoria McGuire, pharmacy procurement specialist, remove the vaccine from the dry-ice container in which it was shipped. (UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical/courtesy)

As the process works its way through the various phases, vaccine administration for the general public is anticipated for early summer.

Routt County was scheduled to receive 580 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday for local distribution. Additional vaccines are set to be received for regional distribution. When the Moderna vaccine is approved, likely Friday, Routt County is scheduled to receive 200 doses in the first shipment. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in a regular freezer.

The first batch of Pfizer vaccines will be distributed to the 1A group at the hospital over four days, said UCHealth Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek, and is anticipated to cover all who meet those criteria.

Wes Hunter, director of pharmacy, and Victoria McGuire, pharmacy procurement specialist, place the COVID-19 vaccine into the ultracold freezer at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. (UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center/courtesy)

“It feels like we’re turning a corner. When the pandemic began at the beginning of the year, I don’t think any of us would have ever guessed that we’d be able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations within the same year,” said Eli Nykamp, director of operations and COVID-19 incident commander at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The long-term care facility staff and residents will receive vaccines through a separate distribution process. Walgreens has been assigned by federal officials to receive and administer those vaccines, according to Brad Boatright, executive director of Casey’s Pond. As of Wednesday morning, Boatright said it was not known exactly when those vaccines will arrive and be administered, with more information anticipated by the end of the day.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination, according to the CDC. That means it is possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick since the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

During the Pfizer trials, the vaccine was shown to have an efficacy rate of 52% about 10 days after the first dose and 95% after the second dose.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be administered in two doses, with the Pfizer vaccine spaced apart by 21 days and the Moderna vaccine by 28 days.

“We know there is a way to go still, and we all must keep with the protective public health measures, but it’s a really good day,” Nykamp said.

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