With Colorado's new vaccine schedule, 70 and older still prioritized

Eligiblity started Feb. 8 for Coloradans 65 to 69, school workers

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More updates to Colorado's coronavirus vaccine schedule have pushed some groups closer to the front of the line, but public health officials emphasize that Coloradans 70 and older who haven't yet been vaccinated still have priority.

“With this additional group that's being added, doesn't that basically push anyone in the 70-or-older category further down the list by adding to the pool?” asked a caller from Douglas County during a live virtual town hall Feb. 4 that discussed vaccine distribution.

Meredith Brown, a school nurse liaison for Tri-County Health Department, responded that vaccine providers are still prioritizing people 70 and older — and said that's the directive from the state.

“The state announces eligibility ahead of time to prevent lag time,” said Brown, whose health department serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. She added: “We wouldn't want to get done with the 70-plus group and have any time” wasted in getting to others.

Colorado's updated vaccine schedule, as of Feb. 4, notes: “As we move through phases, people in previous phases remain eligible.”

Here's a look at some questions and answers from Tri-County's town hall and recent information from the state public-health department on who can get the vaccine and when.

More seniors, school workers up next

Coloradans ages 65 to 69 reached eligibility for the vaccine on Feb. 8, according to a governor's office news release.

Colorado's school workers for grades pre-K through 12 also reached eligibility Feb. 8 and should reach out to their employers to sign up for the vaccine, the news release said.

Seniors won't get displaced in line by teachers, according to a frequently-asked-questions page from the state public-health department in late January.

“Pre-K-12 teachers and child-care workers are in Phase 1B.2 of the phased distribution plan, and they will get their vaccines through their employer and will not utilize the same vaccine sign up system as people 65 and older,” the page says.

About halfway to goal for 70-plus

Roughly 191,000 Coloradans 70 or older had received a first vaccine dose, according to a frequently asked questions page from the state public-health department in late January.

The state aims to vaccinate 70% of Coloradans ages 70 and older by Feb. 28. That totals about 394,000 people, according to the page.

“We're about 47% of the way to our goal,” the page says.

High-risk conditions, frontline workers

Gov. Jared Polis also announced that close to March 5, “frontline” workers and Coloradans ages 16 to 64 with two or more conditions that put them at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 will also likely be eligible, according to the release.

Frontline workers include those in food and agriculture, manufacturing, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit, grocery, public health, human service workers, faith leaders, direct care providers for Coloradans experiencing homelessness and journalists.

That list includes restaurant workers, according to Denver-area news reports.

High-risk conditions include cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease and many others. See a full list in the vaccine schedule chart here.

A caller in the Tri-County town hall from Adams County asked if she needs documentation from her doctor regarding her multiple high-risk conditions.

“We don't know exactly what the documentation will look like for folks with those chronic conditions,” Brown said. But it's a good idea for Coloradans to talk with their doctors and gather any available documents now to be ready when eligibility for the high-risk group comes, Brown added.

For comparison, here's a look at Colorado's previous update to the vaccine schedule.

Focus on equity

A caller during the Tri-County town hall from Littleton said she's heard that some demographics, such as Hispanic and Black Americans, have higher rates of hospitalization due to COVID-19, asking why they aren't prioritized for vaccination.

Brown responded that Tri-County Health and state officials are focusing on “vaccine equity” despite the fact that certain races aren't prioritized in the vaccine schedule.

“The state is working on multiple equity initiatives, including supporting community-based clinics in rural and low-income areas, supporting transportation initiatives to ensure access to vaccine clinics, (and) promoting vaccine education and engagement with community-based organizations and businesses,” the state public-health department's FAQ page says.

Multiple vaccine appointments?

The question of whether it's OK to sign up for vaccine appointments from multiple sites to bolster hopes of securing one appointment also came up.

Brown replied that it isn't a bad idea but said Coloradans who do so should notify health care providers if they no longer need a spot so that others aren't unnecessarily blocked.

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