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Hospital employees of all ages eligible for COVID-19 vaccine even if they don't see patients

Denver Health's chief medical officer said those who see patients were the high priority, but other roles, including food workers, do come in contact with patients.

DENVER — Just because someone works for a hospital doesn't mean they work in a hospital.

Yet employees of all ages at different hospitals in the Denver metro area are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, even if they don't see patients.

A month ago, Denver Health sent out an email to all staff letting them know how to sign up for a vaccine if they wanted one.

"Those who work face-to-face with patients were in the highest priority group, but it's always hard when you have other essential workers who are critical to the function of the institution, who also have to be in the environment sometimes as well, to make sure that they're protected," said Denver Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Connie Savor Price.

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She said even if you don't think a hospital employee interacts with patients, they likely interact with patients.

"Even somebody in finance, they meet with patients face-to-face all day. I.T., our information technology, a critical infrastructure for our medical records, we cannot do health care without having a medical record, they're inside the hospital all the time, sometimes in patient rooms," Price said.

But what about the office staff? The hospital employees who work in office space and not in the hospital, or the hospital staff that can work at home?

"For those who, maybe, would do that less frequently, or maybe not routinely, the idea is that during a surge any of them could be called on-site to help out in the hospital," Price said.

That's the reason SCL Health is also offering vaccinations to employees whose main job is not patient-facing.

"We moved many non patient-facing associates into patient-facing roles at certain points in our response, so it has been and remains critical to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all of our associates to maintain our ability to continue to serve our patients and communities," said Nikki Sloup, SCL Health vice president of communications.

Health-care workers were among the first to receive the vaccine. Phase 1B includes frontline essential workers.

"Health care isn't just a doctor or a nurse, it's environmental services, it's food service, it's engineering, constantly going into rooms, fixing airflow issues. Making sure that the environment is safe. This is a team effort. And they play a critical role in what they do to help support the direct patient care, and at any time, could be utilized in a different role, should we need them to surge," Price said.

Price referenced a study published in Science Magazine that shows 20- to 49- year-olds as the age group causing continued COVID surges.

"The working people of that age group are the ones that are continuing to spread this," Price said.

The study suggests targeting that age group for vaccines to stop surges and prevent COVID-19 preventable deaths.

Currently, Colorado plans to vaccinate the general population of 16- to 59- year-olds sometime this summer.

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