DENVER — A grant program announced Thursday will help smaller clinics provide COVID-19 vaccines by funding things like outreach and technology with the ultimate goal of increasing the vaccination rate.
"When primary care providers, especially those in smaller practices, don't have the tools they need to offer COVID-19 [vaccines], it's really a missed opportunity," said Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado).
Funds are distributed through the new Primary Care Vaccination program on a first-come-first-serve basis for those who enroll. It's funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and administered by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI).
Primary care practices can get up to $60,000 to $120,000 (depending on practice size) to support the administration of COVID-19 vaccine. Providers can apply beginning Thursday and the program will remain open through November.
"We know primary care providers are among the most trusted source of information on vaccines and are instrumental in overcoming vaccine hesitation, " said Dr. Aaron Shupp, a family medicine specialist at Rocky Mountain Primary Care.
Schupp said funds from the new program will allow clinics to meet patients where they are.
"The easier we can make it for Coloradans to get vaccinated the better off we'll all be," he said.
Colorado reached a milestone this week with 75% of adults receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Polis said. He said he believes between 10 and 15% of those who are eligible but have not yet been vaccinated are open to it. Those are the people that the state hopes to target with this new program.
Currently, the state has 796 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 103 of those patients are vaccinated and considered "breakthrough cases, Polis said.
> Watch the full press conference.
He said there are currently five children under five years old in the hospital and six patients who are between six and 17 years old.
"The new wave of COVID patients in predominantly unvaccinated people may ultimately break the souls of my colleagues," said Marc Moss, head of Pulmonary Sciences Critical Care Medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine-Anschutz.
"We will continue to provide excellent care to patients, but many healthcare workers are simply exhausted."
During a news conference last week, Polis urged everyone to be careful as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state continue to climb. Thursday, though he said the rate has appeared to plateau.
"It looks like it's potentially leveled off at a very high level," Polis said. "We're not seeing the growth in COVID cases that we saw last week or the week before but we aren't yet seeing a decline."
Moss noted people seeking care for post-COVID symptoms is "increasing in exponential numbers," which is also putting strain on the healthcare system.
Polis said he expects demand for the vaccine to increase in the next couple of weeks for a variety of reasons. They include the recommendation of booster shots and the potential for the vaccine to be made available for children between five and 10 years old by mid-October.
The governor said regular testing is also an important part of managing the virus and that's why there's a statewide program schools can opt into that provides free testing.
There's a new incentive, funded by federal dollars, for those who agree to be tested.
"There will be a $10 incentive payment per week for kids who chose to be part of this program and parents that sign them up," Polis said.
They also get a one-time $25 gift card at sign up, according to Polis.
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