First Covid-19 vaccines arrive and are administered in Colorado.

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 14: Gina Harper, clinical coordinator with pharmacy, measures out the exact amount of the Covid-19 vaccine for a dose before it is administered to the first patients in Colorado at UC Health Poudre Valley Hospital on December 14, 2020 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The first Covid-19 vaccines were administered in Colorado to frontline health care workers in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs today. Governor Jared Polis joined these nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other frontline workers in the cafeteria of hospital as one by one they got the vaccine. A total of twenty vaccines were administered to twenty doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and others from Northern Colorado medical facilities. During the process of preparing the vaccines, Harper adds sodium chloride to reconstitute the vaccine before injecting it into patients. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, Pool)

Two days after the coronavirus vaccine first arrived in Colorado, its distribution has been smooth and the health care workers set to receive it first are "buzzing," health officials said Wednesday afternoon.

Colorado was set to receive the last 12,000 doses of its initial shipment Wednesday, after receiving more than 25,000 Tuesday and 8,700 in the first batch Monday. There was "a little concern" Tuesday about distributing doses to the more rural parts of the state, said Brigadier Gen. Scott Sherman, who's leading the state's vaccine task force, but he said that everything has "gone great" thus far. 

That sentiment was echoed by health officials Wednesday, who spoke at a press conference that stressed the safety of the shot and the importance of receiving it. The event also featured Michael Rouse, a Coloradan who participated in the Moderna vaccine's final clinical trials. 

Rouse said he had minor side effects after he received both the first and second doses from Moderna, which will likely have its vaccine approved and shipped in the coming days. Once that's given the OK, more than 95,000 doses will be sent to Colorado. Going forward, the state will receive new shipments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays, and officials will place new orders each Friday.

"I feel people should feel comfortable that the vaccines are safe and that they will protect you," he said, noting that he's part of two high-risk groups: He's Black and over 65. Black and Latino people have been hit hard by the virus, at a rate disproportionate to their population share in America and Colorado.

"I’m involved in a long-term trial, which is 25 months, so during that trial, it will be determined how long vaccine lasts, how the efficacy will be over the next year, two years. But I can say that I'm very glad to be part of this."

Thus far, health care workers have received the first several hundred doses that have been administered in Colorado. Michelle Barron, UCHealth's senior medical director for infection prevention, said the system has given roughly 300 inoculations.

Judy Shlay, an associate director of Denver Public Health, said they'd surveyed their entire staff about the vaccine, and 90% of the 7,000 people who responded said they wanted the shot. 

"It's like, the eagle has arrived," she said. "Everybody wants it as soon as possible, so for us, it is great news because it has been a long year, and we're excited to then move to the next phase." 

The state is in its earliest stages of its first phase of vaccine distribution, which will go to health care workers and the staff and residents of long-term care facilities. The inoculations of the latter group will begin Dec. 28, at which point the Moderna vaccine should be available to further bolster the state's stocks.

Still, there remains a sizable share of Coloradans who've said they won't get the vaccine. A state survey showed that one out of every three residents fall into that group. But Eric France, the chief medical officer for the state Department of Public Health and Environment, said that the number of skeptics and anti-vaxxers was likely much smaller, particularly as distribution of the vaccine continues and its safety becomes more apparent among the general public.

"I think it's closer to 80 or 90%," France said, referring to the share of residents who'll receive the vaccine. "When I was a pediatrician seeing patients, we believe that seven out of every 10 families just followed our recommendations. Two or three had some extra questions, and once we answered them, they got the vaccine. A small minority of 2 to 3% were truly anti-vaccines, and they weren't going to be moved."

Shlay said there's still too much unknown about the virus to know what share of the population must get it to provide "herd protection," meaning broad enough security within the population that those who can't receive the vaccine for medical reasons are still protected against infection. 

"The more the better, I think that's the one answer that I would say," she said.

In an interview with The Gazette on Tuesday, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the director of the state health department, said that many of the concerns from skeptics are about safety. Those fears should be assuaged as more and more members of the public receive an inoculation and further prove its safety.

"It's the same process that all vaccines have to go through and that's tens of thousands of people involved," she said of the rigorous methods used to ensure the vaccine is safe. 

The state is devoting more energy in ensuring that the communities of color who've been more heavily affected by the disease receive the vaccine and know it's safe. Hunsaker Ryan said health officials needed to "communicate (the vaccine's safety) in a culturally relevant and meaningful way to people so they do gain a comfort level."

She said the survey conducted by the state to gauge people's willingness to receive the vaccine oversampled communities of color "to understand their attitudes and beliefs about vaccines, what messages would resonate with them so we could appropriately educate different people." She said the state will partner with community groups and "gatekeepers" within those communities to carry those messages.

Asked a similar question Wednesday, France said that at least 1.8 million people will fall into the state's second phase of vaccine distribution.

"Denver Public Health will work with those communities that have the highest rates of disease and are at the highest rates of hospitalization, and will prioritize those areas for first doses," he said, adding that planning was still a work in progress.

Earlier in the fall, as the state was distributing the flu vaccine, officials used that process as a dry run to explore new ways to distribute vaccines. She said that included fire houses and food pantries and that those efforts included "building relationships with folks to build the infrastructure so when we have this COVID vaccine, we have relationships with people, we build trust and can go to organizations and places where people maybe aren't connected with health care." 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.