DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and other state leaders outlined their plan Friday to make sure that the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed equitably across the state population.
The state hammered home that the vaccine is free for everyone and is available regardless of a person's immigration status.
"That's important, because we need to knock down barriers you get community immunity when 70% is vaccinated," said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). "Children under 16 cannot be vaccinated so it's important that every adult who can, does."
She said the state is also working with Lyft and RTD to reduce or mitigate transportation as a barrier to receiving the vaccine.
Because data shows that people of color are less likely to get the vaccine, the state is working with community partners to provide outreach and education in those communities. They're also producing ads in multiple languages and working to provide pop-up clinics in areas where there isn't easy access to a hospital or other medical facility.
"We'll be distributing the vaccine to pharmacies in underserved communities in a way that is incredibly strategic so that they can hit their patient population a little bit broader and wider," said Rick Palacio, strategic consultant to the governor.
The state also announced that most major health providers now have phone numbers set up that people can call to set up vaccine appointments in addition to being able to do so through online portals.
As of Friday, Polis said just over 6% of people in Colorado had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Now the focus remains on people over age 70. He said the state is still on track to get 70% of people in that age group vaccinated by the end of February.
On or around March 1, Polis said teachers would become eligible to receive the vaccine under the state's plan. If more vaccines are received than what is expected in the coming weeks, they could be eligible sooner.
"There are school nurses and others who might be eligible today as medical workers," Polis said. "We moved teachers up to be at the very front when we begin with essential workers."
People 65 and older are also expected to be added to the group of those eligible, which falls in line with current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Earlier this week, Polis sent a letter to all COVID-19 vaccine providers asking them to hand out all the vaccines they have on hand instead of saving some to ensure second doses.
Despite the fact he has encouraged providers to no longer store second doses, Polis said he was confident that everyone will be able to get their second dose on time. He said Friday, if necessary, they could give out fewer first doses in the weeks ahead, to make sure second doses are given on time.
At this point, Polis said the vaccination effort is a race against the more contagious U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus, which was detected in Colorado for the first time last month.
President Joe Biden released his federal plan for bolstering the vaccine supply on Thursday and has said the goal is to administer 100 million vaccines across the country in his first 100 days in office.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: COVID-19 Coronavirus