COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Archuleta County

SUN photo/Randi Pierce
Dr. Ralph Battels, chief of staff at Pagosa Springs Medical Center, receives the county’s first COVID-19 vaccine while fellow physician Dr. Michelle Flemmings claps. Flemmings received the next vaccine dose.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Colorado Monday, with some of those doses then making their way to Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) Wednesday.

Early Wednesday afternoon, PSMC Chief of Staff Dr. Ralph Battels and fellow Emergency Room physician Dr. Michelle Flemmings became the first in Archuleta County to receive a dose of the vaccine.

Both noted their excitement and anticipation before receiving the vaccine, likening it to Christmas, and reported no pain from the shot.

The physicians, as well as anyone else who opts to be vaccinated will have to have a second dose 21 days after the first, a PSMC press release indicates.

Battels expressed that he feels COVID is not going anywhere, leaving two options: contract the virus or be vaccinated.

PSMC is one of 46 locations across the state receiving doses from the initial allocation of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which was granted an emergency use authorization last week.

Many more locations across the state are slated to receive doses from the initial allocation of Moderna’s vaccine once it receives emergency use authorization, which could happen this week.

PSMC was earmarked to receive 200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) also reported receiving and administering a vaccine shipment Wednesday.

“SJBPH’s goal has always been to keep everyone in Archuleta and La Plata counties safe and healthy, and that is especially true in this challenging time,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director. “We are excited to be receiving this first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine prioritized for high-risk health care workers so we can get vaccine started with those who need it most. Equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will move us in the right direction to contain the virus.”

She added, “One way we can keep each other healthy, support our health care workers, and get communities back on their feet is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the vaccine becomes available. When we get vaccinated, we can slow the surge to help our nurses, doctors, schools, fellow community members, and businesses.”

A Dec. 11 press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) explains, “Colorado is requesting enough vaccines to provide for all Coloradans. Because of supply chain limitations, we expect we will receive regular COVID-19 vaccine allocations from the federal government on a weekly basis. To be as fair and efficient with distribution as possible, the state has developed a phased approach to vaccine distribution to save lives and end the crisis that has been brought on by the pandemic as quickly as possible. The federal government is determining the allocation amount by the size of every state’s total population and the quantity of ready-to-ship doses from the manufacturer(s).” 

This week’s shipment, the CDPHE noted, is 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The second shipment will be 95,600 of the Moderna vaccine. 

“The state determined the number of doses going to each location by surveying facilities’ needs for phase 1,” the press release states. “Many of the doses allocated to local public health agencies will be administered to health care workers at local hospitals that do not have the capability to store vaccine.”

PSMC’s Tuesday press release acknowledged that distribution of the vaccine is part of the state’s three-phase plan led by the CDPHE and SJBPH, explaining, “In the first phase, which will extend through the winter, vaccines will be administered to healthcare workers, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, dentists, and first responders. Healthcare workers have been prioritized to assure they remain well and available to care for all the healthcare needs of all patients especially those needing hospital care.

“Phase 2 of the vaccination will begin this spring. Those eligible to receive the vaccine in phase 2 include higher-risk individuals and essential workers; people 65 and older; people with chronic disease or who are immunocompromised; people who interact directly with the public at work; people who work in high-density settings; and workers that serve people who live in high-density settings.

“Those eligible in phase 3, which will begin this summer, include people age 18-64 who are not designated as high risk of contracting the disease.”

More information about the vaccine and Colorado’s vaccination plan can be found at

The press release further notes that vaccinations are voluntary for recipients in all three phases.

“The FDA has concluded the vaccines do not present a safety concern and clinical trials have not resulted in any serious health complications,” the press release states. “At this time, the vaccines are not recommended for children under the age of 16, persons with an active positive case COVID-19, or persons who have a history of allergic reactions to ingredients in the vaccine.”