DENVER — People over 70, moderate risk healthcare workers and first responders are now ahead of teachers and other frontline workers on the state's COVID-19 vaccination timeline, according to new guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The first phase of vaccinations involving frontline healthcare workers is expected to finish on Jan. 15. People over 70 and first responders are expected to receive vaccines from mid-January to late February, according to the CDPHE. Frontline essential workers – including teachers and people who work in childcare – won’t receive vaccines until the end of February at the earliest.
This comes as CDPHE said it sent a letter to vaccine providers offering them more guidance in wake of the state’s changes to its previous vaccination plan. The letter asks that local health agencies focus on prioritizing their vaccines for any frontline healthcare workers who have not yet received it, as well as first responders.
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Hospitals, health systems, pharmacies and safety net clinics “should focus on vaccinating persons 70 years of age and older,” the letter reads.
Staff and residents at long-term care facilities will be vaccinated by a federal program.
CDPHE said it plans to release information about how members of the public who are more than 70 years old can schedule appointments for a vaccine later this week. The goal is for 70% of this population to vaccinated by Feb. 28, according to the letter.
So far, the state has administered 120,510 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, according to its dashboard.
“We need everyone to focus on vaccinating these critical populations while ensuing no dose goes to waste,” the letter from CDPHE reads. “If faced with a choice of wasting vaccine doses or vaccinating someone earlier, providers should choose to vaccine someone earlier.”
This comes as multiple school districts across the state resume in-person learning, and previous restrictions on indoor dining in many Colorado counties have been lifted due to declining COVID-19 activity.
Some nurses with the Cherry Creek School District were some of the first school employees in Colorado to receive the vaccine. It's unclear if the latest guidance will change these plans.
On Monday, the district announced a plan to start vaccinating Cherry Creek teachers by the end of this week, with the goal of having all 9,000 district educators vaccinated by March.
Superintendent Scott Siegfried said the plan was possible through a partnership with Centura Health.
Tuesday evening, Abbe Smith, a spokeswoman for Cherry Creek said the district had not yet been told by their providers about the changing plans.
"If there are changes to the Governor's guidance, we will review it and make any adjustments necessary," Smith said.
A statement from Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association on the change reads:
"In a time of uncertainty and ever-changing information, Tri-County Health announced today that educators would be pushed further down the priority list of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, behind those 70 years or older. This does not change our strong belief that all educators, no matter where they work, want to be in their classrooms, their buses, their lunchrooms, and in their buildings with their students but we need to do it so that it is safe for students and for educators. Vaccinations are but one component of this. Mask-wearing, social distancing, adequate PPE for school staff, proper ventilation systems, access to COVID-19 testing and broad community commitment to limiting the spread of COVID-19 are also components of what is needed to return safely to in person learning. Our members look forward to continuing to work with their school districts and the state to prioritize and ensure the health and safety of students and educators.”
Some seniors in Summit County have already received the vaccine through drive-through clinics, and multiple other Colorado counties have begun releasing information about how this population can begin to schedule appointments.
Colorado's previous COVID-19 vaccination plan included Coloradans age 65 and older in Phase 2, but Gov. Jared Polis changed the order last week.
At the time, he said the shift was due to the increased risk of death for people in that age group — more than 78% of COVID-19 deaths in the state are among adults age 70 and older.
"Any Coloradan 70 and up can now legally receive the vaccine," Polis said. "This will take about 4-5 weeks."
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