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Help arrives in rural vaccine-strapped counties as more doses are shipped

Clear Creek County is used to getting 100 doses every other week. On Wednesday it received 1,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — A line of cars outside the vaccine clinic in Dumont, a mountain town west of Denver, is not a familiar sight. In a county used to getting 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine every other week, the doses are usually used quickly. 

But on Wednesday, things looked different. 

"The floodgates do feel like they’ve opened. We received 1,500 vaccines this morning," said Dr. Tim Ryan, Clear Creek County's health director. "We’ll vaccinate more people these next five days than we will have since we started."

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On Wednesday morning, Clear Creek County received more vaccines in one shipment than it had in the prior three months combined.

More than 1,500 people in the small county will be able to get vaccinated this week – more than 15 times the usual amount. The influx of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will change the way rural areas fight the pandemic.

"If the supply continues in the way that we’ve seen it over the last 24 hours, we could conceivably vaccinate the entire county within weeks," Ryan said. "We are able to vaccinate far more people. Logistically, it’s a lot simpler for us. We don’t need a freezer for it. It goes right into the fridge."

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The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine also makes it easier for counties to fully vaccinate rural residents living outside of cities or far away from vaccine clinics.

After months of waiting for the supply of the vaccine to meet the demand, Clear Creek County said it's prepared to administer up to 4,000 doses a week, if the supply were sufficient. 

"It’s very exciting, yeah," Ryan said. "Just trying to meet that demand and now having the supply to do that, it puts us all in a totally different mindset."

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