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CDPHE launches hotline to provide COVID-19 vaccine information

The hotline, which was set up to give guidance on vaccine distribution and where to sign up to get a shot, took more than 5,200 calls on its first day.

DENVER — On its first day of operation Monday, the state hotline to answer COVID-19 vaccine-related questions received 5,267 calls, according to the state Joint Information Center.

The phone number for the call center, which opened Monday, is 877-268-2926 (CO VAX CO), according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials.

Fifty operators answered calls in multiple languages on Monday, and the average wait time was 23 minutes, the Joint Information Center (JIC) said.

"If these numbers and wait times continue, we'll be scaling up quickly, as early as next week," according to the JIC.

JIC said Wednesday that they would be tripling the number of agents to 150 next week after call volume and wait times increased significantly.

The call center is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through the end of January, officials said on Monday. Starting Feb. 1, the call center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said.

"Navigating a website, navigating a portal is not always the easiest way for everyone to access the system," said Scott Bookman, CDPHE COVID-19 incident commander. "...  We're doing all that we can to continue providing all these different points of access."

>Video below: COVID vaccine information hotline receives more than 5,200 calls on its first day

Information on where to find a vaccine provider is also available on the CDPHE website.

Many people who are eligible to get the vaccine have expressed confusion or frustration on how to sign up for a shot. Hotline volunteers can give callers the phone number and website for health-care providers in their area who have the vaccine, Bookman said.

What the call center can't do is directly book an appointment or put someone on a wait list, Bookman said. CDPHE relies on individual providers to handle those sorts of services, he said. 

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The state announced last week that most major health providers 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.

"Our providers are providing these sign-ups and then many of them are using a lottery system that when it is your time, you'll get that notification," Bookman said. "So it's going to require some patience."

The new hotline will have more operators than a previous one operated by the state, which Bookman said will result in shorter wait times.

> Watch Monday's full news briefing:

Bookman and other officials said that the biggest challenge in the distribution process was that there was not enough COVID-19 vaccine supply at the federal level, said National Guard Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman; however, the state expects an increase in its allocation next month, he said.

As of Friday, Gov. Jared Polis said just over 6% of people in Colorado had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Now the focus remained on people over age 70. He said the state was still on track to get 70% of people in that age group vaccinated by the end of February.

Other updates that officials gave on Monday:

  • In response to concerns over whether everyone who got a first dose will also get their second dose without delay, Sherman said there were no issues. He said the state had a plan to backfill second doses to hospitals and providers as soon as they were needed. That included the distribution event at Coors Field on Sunday, in which 1,000 people received their first dose, and the event next weekend in which UCHealth wants to do 10,000 vaccinations.
  • CDPHE was working on a plan to prioritize vaccine distribution for the second part of Phase 1B that includes essential frontline workers and hoped to release that plan soon. In that group, teachers and child-care workers will get the vaccine first, officials said.
  • Colorado was doing good on its number of cases and hospitalizations compared with the national rate, but overall rates were still high compared with last summer, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. People will need to continue to social distance and wear masks for the next several months, she said.

>A list and map of where to get a vaccine can be found here

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