DENVER — Colorado is expanding its current vaccine distribution plan to include anyone 70 and older, in addition to frontline workers and first responders already being vaccinated, state officials announced Wednesday.
Phase 1B of the state's distribution began Wednesday, though vaccine doses will still be limited based on available supplies. Still, the addition of the 70-and-up age group to the current vaccine distribution plan will be crucial in the widespread inoculation of the most at-risk population.
Polis said the state estimated that 78% of COVID-19 deaths have been among people aged 70 and older. The state plans to distribute free doses of the vaccine to anyone in Phase 1B over the next 4-5 weeks, given the size of the over-70 population in Colorado.
Polis said there has been "some uncertainty and instability" with the federal supply of vaccine doses but that state officials expect enough doses to vaccinate all 70-and-older residents by February.
Protecting older Coloradans "would end the crisis phase" of the pandemic, Polis said, reducing deaths and hospitalizations.
Phase 1B also includes people who work in dental settings, EMS, firefighters, police and correctional workers.
Anyone who qualifies for Phase 1B can visit their local hospitals or drive-through clinics to get the vaccine once it is available at those locations. Coloradans should check with their healthcare provider or local health agency about availability of the vaccine.
After Phase 1B, Colorado will have the chance to reduce COVID-19 deaths by almost 80% in the state, Polis said. It’s not enough to end the pandemic, but it’s good progress, he said.
Some areas of the state are still wrapping up Phase 1A before moving onto Phase 1B. As of Wednesday, 73,867 vaccine doses had been administered during Phase 1A.
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In addition, the state is working with employers to do targeted programs for essential frontline workers, teachers and educators, postal workers, transit workers, frontline journalists in the field and people experiencing homelessness, depending on supply availability in the area.
He said some businesses, such as RTD, may have a specific, coordinated day for employees to get vaccinations. Phase 1A and 1B is expected to be completed by the spring. Phase 2 will begin in the late spring and early summer.
Phase 2 will include Coloradans 60-69 years old, which is a slightly different age group than previously announced, and high-risk individuals who are 16-59 years old. Lastly, Phase 3, which includes the rest of the general public, will begin in the summer. Information on the vaccine for children likely won’t be available until the summer, Polis said.
The schedule of the phases depends on a steady supply of vaccines from the vaccine government, he said.
Polis said the number of people getting tested in Colorado has decreased since the Christmas holiday. He encouraged anybody with symptoms to get tested. Click here to find a testing facility.