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Moving to phase 1B: CDPHE answers questions about COVID vaccine distribution

As Colorado starts to move into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, there are a lot of questions about access and vaccine availability.

DENVER — As Colorado starts to move into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, there are a lot of questions about access, vaccine availability and logistics.

Coloradans who are 70 and older will join frontline workers in receiving the vaccine, as many parts of the state move to Phase 1B of the rollout plan.

Phase 1B also includes:

  • Healthcare workers with less direct contact with COVID-19 patients (home health, hospice, pharmacy, dental, etc.)
  • EMS
  • Firefighters
  • Police
  • COVID-19 response personnel
  • Correctional workers
  • Funeral services

RELATED: Next phase of vaccine distribution expanded to include teachers, grocery store workers, seniors

RELATED: Summit County begins vaccinating 70+ population through drive-through clinics

Next with Kyle Clark sent some of your questions to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). This is what they told us:

Does Colorado have enough vaccines to cover people in phase 1B?

The state wrote:

"We expect weekly shipments of the vaccines which will allow us to eventually vaccinate everyone who wants a vaccine in Phase 1B. We are moving as fast as the federal supply chain allows."

"We currently expect that we will get through the majority of Phase 1A healthcare workers by January 15 and as we get close to that date, we will be able to provide more information for Coloradans on next steps."

"Please note that frontline essential workers, such as teachers, will be able to get vaccinated in the latter parts of the phase distribution plan. We are continuing to move through Phase 1A and above the dotted line on Phase 1B, and then we will start with the remainder of 1B."

How many people does that include?

The state estimates phase 1B includes 125,000 moderate-risk health care workers and EMS first responders, and 562,000 people 70 and older. This does not include the 14,000 in skilled nursing centers.

The state also estimated there are 628,000 frontline essential workers.

What is the advice for people calling providers who say they don't have vaccines yet, or are still transitioning to phase 1B?

The state wrote:

"The best advice is to keep following public health protocols-- wear a mask, physically distance, avoid gatherings, stay home when you’re sick and wash your hands. We are distributing the vaccine in a way that we believe will have the greatest impact for all Coloradans the fastest.

We are so pleased that so many Coloradans are eager to get the vaccine and help put an end to the crisis caused by this pandemic. Eventually everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one, but until it is widely available and community immunity is achieved-- we need everyone to keep following public health protocols to mitigate this virus. As we complete Phase 1A and move into 1B, we are continuing to collect information about where people can get the vaccine. With the help of our local partners, we will provide more information in the coming days and weeks."

What do hospital distribution plans look like for Phase 1B? 

A lot of plans are still being worked on. 

Denver Health

Friday, Denver Health shared the initial statement sent out to staff and stakeholders, which includes giving priority to Denver Health patients 70 and older who received care at a Denver Health facility within the past three years. 

It's the first outreach to a large group of patients for vaccines unrelated to their job for this hospital system. 

Denver Health wrote: 

"Denver Health is quickly adjusting its COVID-19 vaccination efforts after the State of Colorado issued new guidance to expand the first tier of eligibility to include people age 70 and over.

While Denver Health continues to vaccinate the highest risk, patient-facing frontline workers, support staff and community partners that include Denver Police and Denver Fire, we are excited to learn we can now offer the COVID-19 vaccine to more vulnerable people in our community.

With the new guidance, Denver Health will fast track plans to vaccinate as many people in the expanded group as possible over the coming weeks."

Along with some Denver Health patients age 70 and older, the hospital system will move forward to vaccinate an expanded group of health care essential workers, including Denver Health employees who don't interact with patients frequently. This will also include those who provide in-person operational support. At this point, Denver Health said this larger group does not include Denver Health employees who exclusively work from home.

The plan is for Denver Health to reach out to patients and employees the week of Jan. 4 with more information on when and where they can get scheduled. The plan indicated likely offering vaccinations on campus at Denver Health, at their community health centers and utilizing mobile health clinics. 

The plan also included a note about how this will take time, writing:

"Denver Health is hopeful we can accommodate this expanded group of people in the weeks and months ahead as we receive additional shipments of the vaccine and anticipated allocations from the state."

Denver Health said it's still working through some logistics but working to get people in as quickly as possible. 

HealthONE

Thursday, HealthONE shared that most of their hospitals are at the end of 1A and moving into 1B. 

Wednesday, they wrote on Twitter:

"HealthONE facilities are still in the process of vaccinating our colleagues and providers with the COVID-19 vaccine doses we have received.  Due to limited inventory, the vaccine is NOT currently available for members of the community."

Kaiser Permanente 

Health care company Kaiser Permanente shared why some people will have to be patient.

"On Dec. 30, the State of Colorado modified the eligible persons in Phase 1B, which now includes people aged 70 and older, first responders, teachers and other frontline essential workers.

As a designated provider of the COVID-19 vaccine, some Kaiser Permanente medical offices have received a limited number of COVID-19 vaccine doses. While the state does not currently have enough vaccine to immunize everyone in the expanded Phase 1B, we expect more doses will arrive in the coming days and weeks. Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing [the] vaccine to those who are eligible under the state’s criteria as quickly as possible. This is a complex process and it will take time to reach all of those in the current category. We appreciate everybody’s patience.

As vaccine availability increases, we will update our communication channels with information about who is eligible in each phase of the State’s prioritization process and how people throughout our communities can receive a vaccination. Vaccine distribution will continue to be conducted in a phased approach based on eligibility set by the CDPHE and availability of the vaccine. Those who are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can visit kp.org/covidvaccine for more information or call 1-855-550-0951."

A Kaiser spokesman said their staff will reach out to their members when they're eligible based on the phased schedule. When they actually get the vaccine will depend on the supply. 

What other distribution plans are being considered?

The governor's office said they are exploring the idea of mass vaccination clinics, though there is no specific plan in place for that yet.

A spokesperson wrote:

"The state is actively working with local public health agencies to determine which additional providers will vaccinate members of the 1A and 1B groups. Several counties are planning to hold mass vaccination clinics for members of their communities in the near future in lieu of asking individuals to sign up for appointments. In the coming days and as more information becomes finalized, we will publish additional locations for vaccine distribution on the state website. For more information on vaccine distribution locations, you may call COHELP at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. or visit our Vaccine for Coloradans website."

The state said this would be for some point in phase 1B and that local public health agencies are planning now and will have more information on these clinics.

The Tri-County Health Department said so far, all of its vaccine allotment has been to hospital frontline workers, who do their own shots. 

However, the health department is interested in the idea of a mass vaccination clinic writing: 

"We definitely like the idea of mass vaccination clinics, especially drive-thru clinics if the weather allows, but it is too early in the distribution plan for us to have any specific idea of when we will receive enough vaccine to plan something like this. We also support the idea of advance screening for eligibility and timed reservations, even at a mass clinic."

Thursday, the Denver Dept. of Public Health and Environment said they are still working on the process for people included in phase 1B but did provide a few details writing:

"The City and County of Denver, in partnership with Denver Health, this week began to vaccinate frontline Denver police, fire and sheriff first responders. Thus far, 952 vaccines have been administered to city first responders who are eligible to receive it in this phase.

Denver is also partnering with Safeway Pharmacy to provide vaccines to Denver healthcare workers and responders in Phase 1A and Phase 1B.

The city will coordinate with the State to facilitate vaccine distribution within Denver as we move through Phases 1A and 1B into Phases 2 and 3 in the weeks and months ahead. Additional details will be provided in the coming days. Click here for vaccination information for Denver residents."

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