Colorado’s first doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected early next week

By Erin Prater and Evan Wyloge, The Denver Gazette
Posted 12/10/20

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Colorado as early as Sunday, and many frontline workers should be vaccinated by the end of February, state officials said …

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Colorado’s first doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected early next week

Posted

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Colorado as early as Sunday, and many frontline workers should be vaccinated by the end of February, state officials said Wednesday.

Coloradans who aren't at high risk for the potentially deadly virus will likely need to wait until summer to be vaccinated, they said.

The news came the same day Colorado reported a record number of deaths among COVID-19 patients: 267, up from the previous high of 127 reported Dec. 3.

The FDA is expected to grant Pfizer emergency use authorization between Friday and Monday, officials said at a virtual news conference detailing the state's virus response. After the approval, an initial shipment to Colorado — of 46,800 doses, the maximum the state was allowed to order — is expected within 24 hours, likely arriving in Colorado by early next week, officials said.

About a week later, the state is set to receive 95,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine, the maximum allowed at this time, officials added.

"We're really excited about the triumph of modern science," Gov. Jared Polis said. "We obviously want more, and we expect more over time."

"We've learned to sort of believe it when we see it," he said of the number of doses expected to arrive, adding that some shipments of personal protective equipment fell short of the number ordered.

Colorado's population represents 1.69% of the United States', and the state is expected to receive the same percentage of available vaccines each week, the governor's office said Wednesday.

Both vaccines require two doses — 21 days apart for Pfizer, and 28 days apart for Moderna. Pfizer says its vaccine is 95% effective; Moderna reports its vaccine is nearly 95% effective. Both are more effective than the flu vaccine, according to state health officials.

Those who qualify to receive the vaccine under Phase 1 — including many health care workers and long-term care facility workers and staff, as well as EMS, firefighters, police and correctional workers — are expected to receive it by February, officials said.

Phase 2 distribution — to the elderly, those with health conditions, public-facing workers, those who work in high-density settings, other health care workers not covered in Phase 1 and adults who received a placebo during a COVID vaccine trial — are expected to be able to access the vaccine during the spring.

During the summer, those who qualify under Phase 3 — members of the general public ages 18-64 without high-risk conditions — are expected to be able to access the vaccine, officials said.

Children are not eligible for the vaccine, Polis said, adding that he believed trials were underway for children 12 and up.

The main focus of the state's distribution plan is to "make sure we save the most lives ... and end the pandemic as soon as possible," Polis said. "And we're ready."

The initial vaccine shipments represent "precious few doses," and must be strategically deployed to "end the crisis," said Scott Bookman, incident commander for the state's COVID response.

During Phase 1 distribution, vaccines will be available at local public health agencies, hospitals and health systems, select federally qualified health centers like long-term care centers and some pharmacies. Health care workers who qualify to receive the vaccine under Phase 1 will likely receive it through their employer. Residents and workers at long-term care facilities will likely receive the vaccine at those facilities under a federal partnership with Walgreens and CVS, whose employees will administer the vaccine. As more vaccine becomes available, administration will expand into rural health centers, safety-net clinics, doctors' offices, more pharmacies and other locations.

More information is expected about Phase 2 and 3 distribution. Those who believe they qualify for a Phase 1 vaccine can call a new hotline at 1-877-462-2911 or visit covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine.

Polis said that prisoners will receive the vaccines along with nonincarcerated individuals who qualify for the same phase, reversing a previously released draft plan that had those who lived in congregate housing, including the homeless and incarcerated individuals, receiving the vaccine ahead of the elderly and people at higher risk for virus complications.

"Nobody is penalized because they're incarcerated or given advantage," Polis said.

Eight vaccine distribution hubs around the state will house vaccines, which will be stored in ultracold freezers. Those locations will not be released, but local law enforcement will assist with security of those sites. National Guardsmen and medical couriers will distribute the vaccines locally, officials said.

The state will require COVID-19 vaccination providers to report administered doses to the Colorado Immunization Information System within 72 hours of administration "to ensure not one dose goes to waste," Bookman said. But Coloradans' immunization records are confidential, and personal medical information will not be shared publicly, he said.

Data collected from vaccine recipients will have identifying information removed, and no one's personal details will be shared with the federal government, Bookman added, confirming reports that the state is refusing a request by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share information including the names, addresses, dates of birth and gender of vaccine recipients.

In doing so, Colorado has joined other states that are pushing back against the federal agency, claiming it would infringe on privacy.

“Because Coloradans’ privacy is a priority, CDPHE (the state health department) negotiated with the CDC to ensure that personally identifying information was not going to be reported from the state to CDC,” a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment wrote in an email. “This complies with Colorado statute.”

CDPHE will be tracking individually identifying vaccination information and sharing some of the data with other state agencies, but the spokesperson wrote that, “Colorado will use the Colorado Immunization Information System to monitor doses administered, inventory levels, vaccine orders, distribution to vaccination providers and any repositioning of vaccine between vaccination providers during Phase 1 to ensure end-to-end visibility of all doses. … CIIS is a confidential, population-based, secure computerized system that collects and consolidates individual-level vaccination and exemption data for Coloradans of all ages from a variety of sources.”

The system will track the progress of individuals’ vaccinations “because of the need for a second dose,” the spokesperson wrote.

The CDC’s request is laid out in a Data Use and Sharing Agreement, which describes why the federal agency wants states to provide the data.

The CDC says it needs the data to assess the patterns of vaccination in the population, identify undervaccination, assist in vaccine allocation, monitor effectiveness, safety and risk factors, evaluate the impact of the coronavirus and the vaccine on health care systems and communities and to monitor the multiple vaccinations required for some of the pharmaceutical companies’ vaccines, for individuals who move across state lines.

Minnesota officials refused to sign the agreement, according to the New York Times, but will provide “de-identified doses-administered data” when vaccinations begin, nearly the same description provided by a Colorado health department spokesperson.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed concern about the efforts and resistance to providing the data because of the ramifications for people living in the U.S. without legal immigration status, according to the New York Times.

Pennsylvania tried to amend the language of the agreement, the New York Times reported, but was rebuffed by the CDC and then signed anyway. CDPHE did not say if it has signed written agreements with the CDC.

In other Colorado coronavirus news:

- There were 3,757 new cases of COVID-19 reported to the state Wednesday, Polis said. "We still are hopeful this is a plateau," he added.

- This week, the Colorado Unified Coordination Center completed an exercise to test its ability to deliver the vaccine from Denver International Airport to Vail Health, a distribution facility. The exercise took four hours, according to the governor's office.

Gazette reporter Seth Klamann contributed to this report. For more stories like this, subscribe at denvergazette.com

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