Our View: Vaccine information needs to be centralized | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Vaccine information needs to be centralized

The rollout of Routt County’s vaccination program began about a month ago, and since then, about 2,000 people have received the first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and another 740 have received a second dose.

After frontline health care workers and first responders were vaccinated, immunizations are now being offered to people 70 and older under guidelines established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Currently, the vaccine is being distributed through several different entities, including the Routt County Department of Public Health, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, Northwest Colorado Health and Lyon’s Corner Drug Store. Under a federal contract, Walgreens has administered the majority of the vaccine to residents of assisted living facilities and their health care workers.

The vaccine is a sign of hope to many that an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, and thousands of local residents are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to be immunized. In recent weeks, many have voiced their frustrations with what they perceive as difficulty accessing information about the county’s vaccination program. They say they don’t know how to sign up for the vaccine and feel like they are missing out on opportunities to get vaccinated or are having to check four different sites to stay up to date or are making multiple phone calls to try to secure a vaccination appointment.

We don’t want to put undue pressure on our public health officials, who have expressed their own frustration with trying to field questions about the vaccine while also fighting the pandemic on multiple fronts. But we do think it’s vitally important county leaders find a way to improve the local immunization communications plan by creating a central hub for information and one place where people can sign up for the vaccine and receive information on when they can expect to receive it.

At a glance

At issue: Routt County has vaccinated about 2,000 people to date and is now targeting the 70-and-older population, and some in that demographic are saying they are frustrated by lack of clarity on how to access immunization information.

Our View: County commissioners should take the lead on finding resources to create a centralized information system to reach their constituents with the information they need about the vaccine.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Kevin Fisher, community representative

• George Danellis, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

Routt County does offer its COVID-19 vaccine interest form via the covid19routtcounty.com website, but this link is neither easy to find nor a guarantee of what is to come next. And while the approved vaccine providers and public health officials are making efforts to communicate between themselves, the approach seems to still come up short.

We believe the responsibility for a centralized, confidence-inspiring vaccination communication hub lies with our county commissioners and is well within their reach. They need to secure the resources necessary, maybe through CARES Act funding or tapping into the area’s deep brain trust, to create a functional centralized system for communicating with their constituents about the county’s vaccination plan. This isn’t something public health should be required to do. It’s important they be allowed to focus on administering the vaccine and tracking the virus’ spread.

Instead, maybe there is someone already on the county payroll who has the skill set to accomplish this task, or better yet, commissioners could look outside their own ranks and recruit someone from the business community who has the particular expertise needed to build a solution fairly quickly. Summit county already offers its residents a simple online appointment portal. We should strive to offer the same as soon as possible.

Additionally, the county should work cooperatively with all stakeholders in the community through which our residents may seek information about the vaccine, such as pharmacies, UCHealth and Steamboat Pilot & Today to ensure that any county messaging is uniformly available in real time. This type of information clearinghouse would eliminate confusion and offer the public peace of mind knowing there is one place they need to go to sign up for the vaccine and find answers to their questions.

It also should be noted the county’s immunization plan is directly impacted by the supply of vaccine it receives from the state and information on local supply needs to be communicated more effectively to the public. On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said Colorado’s fight against the spread of COVID-19 is negatively impacted by the limited supply of the vaccine.

“I share the frustration of our 70-plus population and others who want to get vaccinated. Colorado has the ability to utilize three to five times of vaccines based on our current infrastructure, and our local public health departments and providers across the state have done yeoman’s work to get shots into arms,” Polis said

“The reality is we are exhausting our supply each week, and it’s frustrating how slow we are receiving vaccination doses, but we are hopeful that the amount we recover will increase over time,” he added.

In the local fight against the pandemic, county leaders have asked for great sacrifice from the community, and we don’t think it’s too much to ask in return for commissioners to act quickly to ensure the vaccine rollout proceeds as smoothly as possible by providing the resources needed to get an improved vaccine sign-up and notification system up and running.

If we can’t solve the communication issues now, lives may be put at risk as the situation will only become more complicated as additional private clinics begin to offer the vaccine and more citizens become eligible for immunization.

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