DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Monday morning urged Colorado hospitals to begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine within 72 hours of receiving shipments of it, as the vaccine arrived in Colorado.
Polis — who was on hand to receive Colorado's first shipment of the vaccine at 8 a.m. Monday — asked hospital administrators to confirm to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) of their plans to start issuing the vaccine and request support from the CDPHE if they need it.
"Colorado is expecting to begin receiving initial, limited doses of COVID vaccine this week, and we need to be ready to hit the ground running," Polis wrote in the letter. "Our ability to quickly vaccinate prioritized populations and report those doses as administered to the Colorado Immunization Information System is paramount to Colorado’s ability to receive future allocations of COVID vaccine and end this public health crisis."
Polis and health officials were at a state health building in Denver on Monday as the first shipment of the vaccine arrived. Hearing a ring signaling the shipment's arrival, Polis raised a garage door and signed for the FedEx shipment of the vaccine.
"Show me where to sign," Polis told the FedEx delivery driver. "I've been waiting to do this signature for nine months."
Polis then walked with health officials as they escorted the shipment to the building's ultra-cold freezer, where the vaccine will have to be stored until administered.
"This vaccine means the end of the pandemic," Polis said. "The end of the pandemic is in sight. This is the beginning of the end of the pandemic."
The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States were headed from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, including Colorado, on Sunday.
The shipments Sunday morning set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history. The Colorado National Guard was expecting to deliver the first doses of the vaccine to larger hospitals in the Denver area.
It may take several days to get the doses to more rural areas in Colorado but officials say they expect smaller hospitals to have doses by mid-week.
The vaccine, like elsewhere across the country, will be distributed in Colorado based on priority, with highest-risk health care workers and long-term care staffers and residents receiving the vaccine first this winter. Health care workers considered to be at moderate risk of contracting COVID-19, along with other first responders, will then receive the vaccine.
High-risk people among the general population are expected to begin receiving the vaccine in the spring.
The Moderna vaccine is also expected to be approved this week, giving Colorado another 95,600 doses. But even though the vaccine is on its way for many health care workers, officials say it will be a few months at least until the general public has access.