By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis announced that on Friday, April 2, all Coloradans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and all Coloradans over the age of 18 will be eligible to receive the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

But the governor tempered that announcement by noting that “patience is key” in waiting for vaccines to be accessible.

“Each vaccine is a step towards getting back to normal. Today is a monumental step forward in Colorado’s efforts to get vaccines to every person who wants one, and I want to thank our frontline heroes — both professional and volunteer — who have stepped up, racing to get shots into arms,” Polis said Monday. “This is one of the greatest feats in human history, and we couldn’t have gotten to where we are now without their tireless efforts. Soon everyone in our state will be able to get the protection they need, but it’s going to take some time. It could be next week, it could be in five weeks. So while availability opens to everyone this Friday, April 2nd, be patient and know that your time will come.”

Polis stated he anticipates everyone who wants the vaccine will have access to it before the end of May.

Locally, despite southwest Colorado continuing to lead the state in vaccine distribution rates, public health officials also continue to remind people that distribution relies on a limited supply.

“We continue to be limited by supply,” said San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) Environmental Health Director Brian Devine, who is serving as the organization’s deputy incident commander for the COVID-19 response.

Devine explained that a possible onetime surge of doses may come in the first two weeks in April, with SJBPH trying to advocate to receive as many of those doses as possible to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

If a onetime surge appears, he explained, SJBPH may put on clinics in addition to other vaccine providers distributing shots.

“It will take several weeks for those people to get vaccinated,” Devine said, adding that people should keep trying if they’re not able to get vaccinated right away. “Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will get vaccinated, but it will take a few weeks.”

Polis and Devine also stated that providers are allowed and encouraged to prioritize vulnerable populations who were eligible in earlier phases.

“We definitely still want to prioritize all those people,” Devine said. “They are still the most likely to … get or transmit the disease and to be hospitalized.”

Archuleta County
vaccine stats

Devine suggested that, to SJBPH’s knowledge, no vaccine doses have been wasted in southwest Colorado, with providers sharing doses to ensure their use.

“We have great statistics here in Archuleta County, really across the whole southwest region, but especially, I think, in Archuleta and La Plata counties,” Devine said. 

As of Wednesday, SJBPH’s website reported that 38 percent, or 5,276 of the county’s estimated 13,999 population, has been immunized with one dose.

Further, 28 percent, or 3,873 individuals, are considered fully immunized.

However, Devine pointed out that Archuleta County is getting “very close” to having 50 percent of its 16-and-older population vaccinated as far as the first dose.

“We do, of course, expect that the eligibility for vaccine will go down from 16-year-olds to younger age groups, probably in the early fall, but as far as our current mass vaccination campaign, we’re getting very close to 50 percent complete as far as first doses … and finding and seeing patients is concerned, so that’s very exciting,” Devine said.

SJBPH’s website reported on Wednesday that 45 percent of the 16+ population, or 5,276 out of 11,744, have been immunized with one dose, while 3,873 are fully immunized.

The website also showed that 74 percent of those 70 and older were immunized with one dose, with 69 percent considered fully immunized.

How do I get the vaccine?

Devine suggested that individuals interested in receiving the vaccine can sign up for weekly vaccine notifications from SJBPH on its website and can sign up with multiple providers to see where they can get an appointment quickest.

He further suggested that, because eligibility is open to anyone 16 or older, if the patient is 16 or 17, those calling have to ask providers which vaccine they offer.

He indicated that it will start to be listed which vaccine providers offer, and SJBPH’s pediatric vaccine providers will receive the Pfizer vaccine to work with their existing patients.

Devine explained there are plans to do vaccine clinics in collaboration with school districts for eligible individuals.

Those 18 and older are encouraged to not vaccine-type shop, Devine explained, with all three vaccines considered safe and effective.

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 and email address.

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. 

randi@pagosasun.com