Interest in COVID vaccines increasing across state

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    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    Archuleta County continues to be among the top counties in the state for administering COVID-19 vaccinations, and public health officials are seeing an increase in willingness by people to receive the vaccine.

    As of Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reported that 33 percent, or 4,617 of 13,999 people in the county, had received at least one dose of vaccine, with 24 percent (3,299 people) considered fully vaccinated.

    The organization further reported that 72 percent of the county’s 70+ population has received at least one shot, with 67 percent considered fully vaccinated.

    At a meeting of the Upper San Juan Health Service District Board of Directors (which oversees Pagosa Springs Medical Center, or PSMC) on Tuesday evening, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Bruzzese told the board that vaccine distribution locally is above the national average.

    But, she told the board, there is now a race between the vaccine and the variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

    On Wednesday, SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon issued a reminder than it takes a few weeks to reach full immunization after the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and after the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

    “We should all be wearing our masks,” she said, adding that we owe it to the 50 percent of people who are over 65 who have not been vaccinated and the 75 percent of the rest of the population that has not been.

    Jollon also indicated that interest in vaccines is increasing.

    “We are seeing a lot more interest across the state in getting the vaccine than we saw in the fall,” she said, adding there’s been a “tremendous growth” in interest in getting the vaccine as quickly as it becomes available.

    Contributing to that, she indicated, is knowing people who have gotten the vaccine and been able to do things such as visit family.

    She called it a “positive step forward” that the percentage of individuals saying they will receive the vaccine when available has steadily increased, and she noted SJBPH is “looking forward to being in the place where vaccine is offered to everybody.”

    However, Jollon indicated that public health officials continue to be concerned over future vaccine allocations.

    She noted that national production goals appear to be being met for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with a continuous increase of doses expected.

    But there is concern across the country that Johnson and Johnson may not meet production goals for the one-shot vaccine, Jollon indicated.

    Further, local health officials are unsure of what the local share of future state allocations will be, she explained, adding that because SJBPH received such a large portion of the state’s initial allocation of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, it hasn’t received any since.

    Part of the area’s strategy so far, she added, has been to do the difficult things, like distribute the Pfizer, which comes with storage and other requirements that are more difficult to meet and that make that vaccine less appealing to request.

    How do I get the vaccine?

    Currently, eligibility groups 1A through 1B.4 are eligible to receive a vaccine.

    The newest group, 1B.4, became eligible on March 19.

    Phase 1B.4 includes:

    • People ages 50 and older.

    • Student-facing higher education employees.

    • Frontline essential workers in food/restaurant services, manufacturing, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit and specialized transportation, public health, human services workers, direct care providers for Coloradans experiencing homeless and journalism.

    • Faith leaders.

    • People who serve critical functions in state and local governments. 

    • Adults who received a placebo during a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

    • People 16-49 with one of the state’s listed high-risk conditions.

    Gov. Jared Polis previously anticipated vaccine eligibility would open to the general public by mid-April.

    Archuleta County has several enrolled vaccine providers. For information on vaccine eligibility groups and area vaccine providers, visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/ and see below.

    PSMC:

    To enroll with PSMC, visit https://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org/vaccine to complete and submit registration forms. 

    Those who are unable to access the form online can call PSMC’s vaccine line at 507-3995 and leave a message with: full name, date of birth, county of residence, phone number, email address and which group applies to you.

    PSMC will call those on its list to set up vaccine appointments.

    Pagosa Medical Group:

    Those who are eligible can text Pagosa Medical Group at 372-0456 (preferred), call the same number or email info@pagosamedicalgroup.org.