A Jefferson County Public Health official said the county's COVID-19 vaccine providers will soon be able to give residents their first vaccine dose at a faster rate than they have so far. That change …
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A Jefferson County Public Health official said the county's COVID-19 vaccine providers will soon be able to give residents their first vaccine dose at a faster rate than they have so far. That change is a result of new direction from the state to begin giving doses that were previously being saved for second doses as first doses.
“What we are intending with that is to really make sure that we can get to some of the most vulnerable, particularly the 70-plus population, with at least one dose without having some vaccine sitting in the refrigerator waiting for someone to come in for a second dose,” said JCPH Community Health Services Director Margaret Huffman.
According to Huffman, about 21,000 Jefferson County residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 20. About 6,000 of those people have received two doses.
Counties across the state were set to begin using doses that were previously being saved for a second dose starting the week of Jan. 25, which would allow about a week of ramp-up time from Gov. Polis' announcement that counties should begin using those saved doses.
Huffman told the county commissioners on Jan. 21 that JCPH continues to be focused on vaccinating healthcare workers and first responders eligible for vaccination under phases 1A and 1B of the state vaccination plan. The rest of the county's 40 current vaccine providers, which include hospitals, pharmacies and Kaiser-Permanente, are providing vaccines to residents ages 70 and over.
However, Huffman said that the recent change in approach means that the county will have to reevaluate the effectiveness of that strategy going forward.
While King Soopers, Kaiser-Permanente and other providers are taking appointments to vaccinate those over 70-plus, Huffman said the county is also still trying to figure out solutions to problems ranging from difficulties for seniors to sign up for appointments to a lack of transportation to those appointments.
“It's not easy — and this is a problem we are really trying to work on collectively,” said Huffman. “I was just on our meeting with our Emergency Operations Management team and we are working on this to see how we can do some outreach with our seniors because not everyone is connected online and the process to sign up is not necessarily intuitive for everyone to do.”
Huffman said that as of Jan. 20, about 5% of the county's population of residents over age 70 had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
During the Jan. 21 meeting, new county commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp asked people about who those eligible for the vaccine should call to sign up.
“I've received a lot of concerns from people, especially people over 70, that they don't know who to call or they are calling people and not getting responses,” said Kraft-Tharp. “And they're getting panicky about when they are going to get the vaccine.”
Huffman responded that the county is currently working to create a call center or some other resource to field those calls.
“That's part of this whole planning process,” said Huffman. “Please stayed tuned on that.”
In the meantime, residents can also go to the websites of local hospitals, King Soopers, Walgreens and Kaiser-Permanente for information about signing up to be vaccinated and seek out help if needed from the county's Senior Resource Center. Additional information about vaccine access can also be found at www.jeffco.us/4210/Vaccine.
Huffman also said JCPH is planning to release information via the media and the CDC's Health Alert Network encouraging more residents over 70 to sign up for a vaccination appointment once the additional doses become available.
But while the decision to increase the availability of first doses will supply, Huffman said there is still a lack of vaccine and it will take a while before there is enough supply to vaccinate everyone over 70 in Jeffco who wants to be vaccinated.
“Jefferson County has a high population of 70-plus and we are not receiving the adequate vaccine to really make that dent,” said Huffman. “So when I say we have only done five percent of our 70-plus population, that is indicative of the lack of vaccine we have to actually get into arms.”
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