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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Colorado

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  • Coloradans aged 65-69 are likely to be added to the current priority list for a COVID-19 vaccination in the next few weeks following the recent addition of people age 70 and older.
  • The state is continuing to offer vaccines to the most at-risk health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, but is transitioning into the next tier of the state’s three-phased immunization plan, which also includes a designated group of frontline essential workers.
  • Colorado has administered a combined total of 352,984 doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna following last month’s emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Vaccine news is changing quickly. Check this guide for updates in days ahead.

When can older adults get the vaccine? 

It is not yet clear given limited vaccine supplies and other logistical issues. As Colorado works to expand those eligible to get vaccinated, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to vaccinating Coloradans aged 70 and older by the end of February. He asked the public for patience, pointing out that weekly vaccine shipments are subject to change. "The challenge we face is that week by week, we don’t know how many doses we will receive, making it difficult to plan for more than a week in advance," Gov. Polis said during his latest update. "We need more supply from the federal government."

Colorado is currently in phase 1A and the very beginning of phase 1B of the its distribution plan. Phase 1A covers health care workers and other staff in health care settings and staff and residents at long-term care facilities.  

Covid-19 vaccine
Health care workers are grouped in phase 1A of Colorado's COVID-19
vaccine distribution.
Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The/Denver Post via Getty Images

People 70 and older and a targeted group of essential frontline workers are in phase 1B, which is already underway in some Coloradan counties and is likely to last until early spring. Among eligible frontline workers are police and firefighters; emergency medical professionals; teachers; food and agricultural workers; mass transit, correctional and U.S. postal employees; and grocery store workers. Officials from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of state government, frontline journalists and those offering services to the homeless are also eligible to get inoculated during this phase. 

Coloradans between the ages of 60 and 64 will be offered vaccination in phase 2. Those ages 16 to 59 with co-morbidities are also included, as are other essential workers and adults who received a placebo during a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. Phase 3, expected to begin in the summer of 2021, opens up COVID vaccines to anyone from 16 to 59 years old. 

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death. 

Where can I get a vaccine?  

Most early vaccine recipients in Colorado will get it through their employer, a local public health agency or through a federally contracted pharmacy. For Coloradans age 70 and above, many hospital systems are reaching out to schedule vaccine appointments. In some cases, hospitals will reach out to their patients. In others, patients of these hospitals may sign up to be contacted about scheduling a vaccination, pending supples.

Some local public health agencies are working with their local Safeway pharmacies to help vaccinate those in phase 1A who have not yet received the vaccine. Once more vaccine supply is available, all Safeway locations in the state will be organizing vaccination clinics for groups in Phase 1B. To receive general updates about the COVID-19 vaccine availability from Safeway, sign up for COVID-19 information.

You can also use this online tool to locate vaccine providers on the state's COVID-19 website or call COHELP toll-free at 877-462-2911. 

How do I know when I’m able to get a vaccine?

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19. 

Follow updates about the vaccine’s availability for various groups on Colorado’s COVID-19 vaccine website. You can also call the state’s public health department toll-free at 800-886-7689 or email the department at  cdphe.information@state.co.us.

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.

The initial COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. “What you have is, you get some degree, not optimal, but some degree of immunity a couple of weeks after the first dose,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in December. “That’s not optimal. After the second dose, you get optimal immunity anywhere from seven to 10 days after the second dose.”

You may receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you where, when and which type of vaccine you received, according to the CDC.  The Colorado health department tracks administered vaccines daily in its immunization information system, which will be used by providers to send reminders for your second dose that may come via text, email or phone. 

The CDC has launched a web tool called V-safe that lets you sign up for text message reminders for your second vaccine appointment and report possible side effects.

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine? 

The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. The two national drugstore chains say that more than 48,000 of the 50,000 skilled nursing and assisted living communities in the U.S. are participating in the program. 

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. But the CDC says vaccine providers may still charge a fee for giving someone a shot. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries, with no copays. And some health insurance companies have announced there won’t be out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.

According to the state plan, costs to administer the vaccine will be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus and private insurance. COVID-19 vaccinations are free of charge for uninsured Coloradans.

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

How long does immunity last after I get vaccinated? 

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it will need to be administered on a regular basis like the flu shot.

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-life conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others. The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity, and the agency continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing. 

During a recent press conference, Gov. Polis reminded the public to take basic precautions even as the vaccination plan unfolds.

“Wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid gathering with those outside your home and wash your hands regularly,” he said. “As vaccines work their way into Colorado, it doesn’t mean life is back to normal yet.”

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren’t evident in the expedited development and review process.

Also of Interest:
·    What is emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments? 
·    How vaccination will work in nursing homes
·    Read our full coronavirus coverage

This guide was originally published in December 2020. It was updated on Jan. 21 with new information about how to find vaccine locations.

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