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Organizer asks why state canceled equity vaccine clinic amid staffing issue instead of another event

Adelante CEO Maria Gonzalez said Colorado's health department contacted her Friday night, telling her the clinic had to be canceled because of staffing.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Colorado’s health department clarified Monday that it canceled a vaccine clinic for the Latino community on Saturday because too many people on the state team set to help vaccinate that morning were sick.

The clinic, organized through Adelante Community Development, was slated for Saturday morning at the Mile High Flea Market.

Adelante CEO Maria Gonzalez said someone from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) contacted her Friday night, telling her the clinic had to be canceled because of a staffing issue. The state would not be able to provide enough vaccinators to run the clinic.

RELATED: Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine among Latino communities continues to grow

Gonzalez said she asked the health department employee if she could use her contacts and line up other vaccinators for the event. Gonzalez said the state representative said that would work.

Gonzalez lined up five vaccinators, but the state said Saturday morning that there wasn’t enough time to verify their credentials and canceled the clinic anyway.

“We already had people waiting in the chair waiting to get vaccinated,” Gonzalez said. “We stayed there the whole day talking to people, apologizing, continuing to build that trust and credibility that we do.”

Gonzalez estimates she had to turn away about 70 people.

She wondered why the state would cancel her clinic, while a newly announced and highly publicized clinic at Ball Arena wasn’t impacted by the staffing shortage.

“We have not experienced staffing issues at those clinics and are not pulling staff from other locations to accommodate those sites,” a spokeswoman for CDPHE said in response to a 9NEWS inquiry Monday.

RELATED: Ball Arena to host 15 vaccination clinics in December

The spokeswoman said in other instances where staffers called out sick, the state typically consolidates clinics nearby. She called this an unusual situation and said the state is currently working on a backup plan in case it happens again.

Gonzalez said the cancellation was more than an inconvenience for the people who came to get vaccinated.

“Something that we’ve learned about our minority population is there is not many places where they can get vaccinated on the hours they have available, because they work one or two jobs,” she said.

“One family in particular, husband and wife, brought their three daughters and they were basically saying that was the day they had taken off work both of them to bring their daughters,” she said.

“It was very disappointing to see parents like -- why did we waste a whole day?”

Steamboat equity vaccine clinic almost cancelled because of staffing

On Monday morning, Roberta Smith, Routt County’s Public Health Director, was on the phone trying to line up vaccinators at the last minute to fill in at an equity clinic that afternoon.

She said she rushed to make the calls after CDPHE originally cancelled the Monday clinic because the team scheduled to help had too many employees call out sick.

“I’m a planner as well so I always have a plan B,” Smith said. “And we do have some contract nurses in public health.”

But in the end, the state health department came through, rerouting one of the state’s vaccination buses to Smith’s clinic providing both staff and vaccine. The team from the bus had worked on Sunday and was supposed to be off Monday.

“Throughout this pandemic we’ve all learned patience and flexibility,” Smith said, grateful the state was able to make the situation work.

The near cancellation of the clinic in Steamboat Springs came two days after the state had to cancel another the equity clinic with Adelante.

In both English and Spanish, Gov. Jared Polis told reporters Tuesday that the cancellation of the Adelante clinic was due to too many staff members calling in sick.

“With hundreds of successful clinics across the state and the tight workforce issues we have it shouldn’t be shocking that there might be a time or two where people call in sick,” Polis said.

“What we’re working on doing is developing a reserve of flexible workforce that if staff calls in sick for a particular site that we can send in that staff so its fully staffed.”

According to CDPHE, 78 people were vaccinated and received flu shots at the Steamboat clinic Monday.

RELATED: Latest COVID-19 numbers: 70% of Colorado's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine

RELATED: Doctors see serious COVID-19 complications in unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies

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