DENVER – Colorado has launched a new vaccine hotline that will be staffed by 50 people and which will be operating on a 24/7 schedule starting Feb. 1 to help better direct people aged 70 and up and others to where they can sign up to get inoculated against COVID-19.
Colorado COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said the toll-free hotline — 1-877 CO VAX CO or 1-877-268-2926 — would be operating from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday over this final week of January and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this weekend before turning into an all-hours operation next week.
The state had been directing people to a different hotline or the state’s website previously, but many people – especially those without good internet access or a computer – complained about not being able to get through or not having their questions answered.
Bookman said the new hotline would be “an additional tool in our toolbox” as the state continues to roll out its vaccine distribution plan, which the governor, officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the state’s vaccine distribution team have said has been hampered by a slow supply of vaccine from the federal government.
“By providing this centralized hotline and then also, our expectation that all COVID vaccine providers will have a phone number and a web portal that’s open to the public for registration, we believe are important next steps in providing access to all,” Bookman said Monday in a call with reporters.
“I think the challenge here is there just isn’t enough vaccine and it is incredibly difficult for all of our providers to create waitlists for what is literally several million people. We understand that frustration,” Bookman added. “We’re doing all that we can to continue providing all these different points of access, and our providers are providing these signups. And many of them are then using a lottery system. When it is your time, you’ll get that notification So, you know, it’s going to require some patience.”
Bookman said the new hotline would give callers information on providers in their zip code who have the vaccine available, connect them with those providers’ phone numbers and web sites to try to narrow down vaccine access points for Coloradans.
Teachers to be vaccinated after 70+ group
Colorado National Guard Brigadier General Scott Sherman, the lead of the state’s vaccine task force, said the state is still on track to get 70% of people age 70 and up vaccinated by the end of February. Bookman said that goal was “wildly important” to meet and added that as the state works to maintain equity in its distribution schedule, it hopes to get community-based clinics in 50% of the state’s 50 most populous Census tracts.
Sherman said Colorado was 9th in the U.S. in the number of per capita doses administered and that the state had administered 99.7% of its first doses and was now awaiting the new weekly shipments from Operation Warp Speed.
Ninety-eight percent of 209 skilled nursing facilities have already received their first doses through the federal partnership, Sherman said, and about 85% of frontline health care workers eligible in Phase 1A have received their second doses of vaccine.
Sherman also said that Pre-K through 12th grade teachers and child care workers would be the first Phase 1B group “below the dotted line” to receive vaccines after the 70+ and first responder group gets vaccinated and that the state would likely be releasing more information this week about those plans.
They will come as several large districts have started to move back to some in-person learning but have already seen thousands of students and staff quarantined because of outbreaks.
CDPHE State Epidemiologist noted a downward trend in case counts and rates seen over the past two weeks following a small post-holidays spike but said cases were still notably higher than they were in the spring. There are 10 cases in Colorado of the B.1.1.7 variation, which Herlihy said officials continue to test for at the state lab and monitor closely, along with the latest research regarding its spread and deadliness.
She said that the latest modeling data shows that even as more people get vaccinated – and hopefully even higher numbers will be soon – it’s likely that mask-wearing, social distancing and the other common pandemic measures will stay in place into the summer at least, saying those efforts “continue to be critically important for months to come.”
Gov. Jared Polis said last week, and the officials reiterated Monday, that they are hopeful the state will start receiving more vaccine in early February and that Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccine might also receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, which would increase the number of doses available to Colorado of all the vaccine types. They say they are ready to administer much more vaccine as soon as it gets to Colorado.
"Again, if we could have 5 million doses of vaccine tomorrow, we would take it. We’ve said that to our federal partners, it just isn’t available right now,” Bookman said.
Polis and the governor’s office said Monday the state had administered 458,441 doses of the vaccine as of 9 a.m. Monday – 375,782 first doses and 82,659 second doses.
The governor’s office said the state is expecting 42,120 first doses and 16,380 second doses from Pfizer next week and 38,170 first doses and 33,200 second doses from Moderna.
In a statement, Polis said the state remains ready to administer 3-4 times as many vaccines as the state is currently receiving.
“Vaccines in Colorado are not sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf and we need more vaccines immediately to protect our most vulnerable residents over the age of 70 and ultimately to end this horrible pandemic,” said the governor. “It’s well known by now that the Trump administration failed Americans in many aspects of the COVID vaccine rollout and I continue to urge our federal partners and the new Biden administration in Washington to ramp up vaccine distribution right away. Colorado is ready to immediately use three to four times as many vaccines as we are currently getting each week right away. The sooner Colorado gets more vaccines, the quicker we can get them into arms, and the faster we can help our small businesses and economy build back stronger. We’re ready and welcome renewed federal assistance to get the job done.”