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'We need more vaccine': Polis says state doing all it can with limited supply

Gov. Polis said he's confident everyone in Colorado over 70 will be able to get a vaccine by the end of February.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday acknowledged frustration over the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine but said he remained confident that anyone over 70 who wants the vaccine will be able to get it by the end of February.

"We are not getting enough vaccine from the federal government anywhere in the state. We would have the ability to utilize three to five times as much vaccine each week with our current distribution infrastructure," Polis said. 

"Literally for our entire state we received about 80,000 vaccines this week and they haven't told us what we're going to get next week. So for a state of 5.7 million people, 80,000 vaccines a week."

Polis sent a letter this week directing all providers to hand out all the vaccines they have on hand instead of holding any back for a second dose which will result in more people getting their first dose this week.

"About 110,000 to 120,000 Coloradans over the age of 70 should receive the vaccine this week," he said. "That's exciting, that's one in five. One in five Coloradans over age 70 will get vaccinated this week."

Those already set to receive a second dose this week will not be impacted by the request, as Polis said distributors should “retain only enough second doses that are required for this week.”

It still remains unclear when the state will open up vaccinations to those age 65 and older, which is the current guidance from the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Polis said it depends on the supply.

"The biggest challenge in setting a specific date now for 65 and up is we don't know our supplies and how many vaccines we're going to get next week," Polis said. "We won't find out until Thursday or Friday what we're going to get next week. So we need to have more visibility of the supply chain, make sure that we enough to successfully vaccinate not just one in five people over 70 but as we talked about four in five."

Polis said he's spoken with the incoming Biden administration and expressed his concerns and asked if the state could receive vaccine supply information sooner.

"It is frustrating how slow we are receiving the vaccine," Polis said. "A lot of the problems and frustrations we hear would be gone if the state received three to four times the amount of vaccine we would be able to get to everybody over the age of 70 this week. That's simply not mathematically possible with the quantity of vaccine."

Currently, just over 5% of the state's population has received at least one dose. He said the state could vaccinate three to four times the amount of people that are receiving the vaccine, but said the supply "simply isn't there."

As of Jan. 18, 278,686 people in Colorado have been immunized with one dose of the vaccine and 49,744 have been immunized with two doses.

Currently, the state is vaccinating members of Phases 1A and 1B under its prioritization guidelines. Polis said Friday that the state is largely done with 1A and will begin to focus on those aged 70 and older.  

RELATED: Gov. Polis wants tens of thousands of vaccine doses released ASAP

RELATED: CDPHE: Providers need to let people schedule vaccines regardless of patient status

As of Tuesday, 780 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado and the seven-day, moving average positivity rate decreased to 5.41%, according to the latest data from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

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