DENVER – Colorado officials said Monday the state is prepared to start administering COVID-19 booster vaccines to people beyond the immunocompromised once the federal government gives full approval, which is expected in the next week or two for the Pfizer vaccine.
The state told vaccine providers mid-August to move ahead with providing booster shots to immunocompromised Coloradans following a recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Gov. Jared Polis said Monday around 73,000 people in Colorado have gotten a third dose – about 2.4% of the vaccinated population. He urged people with compromised immune systems to continue to get their booster shots ahead of the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration giving approval to move ahead with their third Pfizer doses – which could happen as soon as next Monday, according to the governor.
Polis said the state has been developing a plan to roll out once that approval is given that will focus on a large-scale booster-shot plan for long-term care facilities and for the general public.
As of last week, 75% of Coloradans age 12 and up had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. The most vulnerable in Colorado started getting vaccinated in December and January, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said Monday the state has been looking at booster shots for all groups between six and eight months after they received their second dose if they got the mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
“We want to make sure all Coloradans have the ability to get the booster when it’s their time,” Bookman said Monday.
He said the state has analyzed their peak administration of the vaccines and found that between pharmacies and other providers, the state can administer up to about 645,000 doses per week, and about 2.58 million per month, if needed.
At the roughly 1,100 long-term care, senior living, assisted living and independent living facilities that got vaccinated primarily through the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens last year, those facilities will work with the state’s enrolled providers of their choice, said Colorado National Guard Lt. Col. Jamie Pieper, the senior advisor for COVID-19 vaccination for the state. She said the long-term care facilities would be able to get the provider of their choice and that the state would step in as needed.
The state hopes to offer booster clinics at those long-term care facilities between Sept. 20 and Oct. 9, Pieper said, depending on when the FDA and ACIP give approval.
She and the other officials said data in Colorado has shown the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine – which is likely to be the first approved for the boosters – is waning more quickly than the Moderna vaccine, which could also see booster approval in coming weeks.
The CDC is estimating about 75% of people across the country who got their second dose would get a third booster dose. But Colorado has been modeling their numbers based off 100% of that population coming back for a third shot, even though Polis and the others Monday said they knew that would not be the case.
Also factored into the model is that half of the 25% of Coloradans who are not vaccinated will do so in coming weeks – which is also not something the officials who spoke Monday said they expected to happen.
They said the model was made to assume the maximum number of vaccine doses that might be sought and available as the booster shots are approved for people six-to-eight months after their second dose. Colorado rolled out the vaccine to everyone ages 16 and up the first week of March, which would put the bulk of the population in line to get booster shots in September, October and November depending on which timeline is followed.
Polis said the state is not expecting that maximum number will be reached on a weekly or monthly basis: “We just want to get ready,” he said, adding that people who are eligible to get a booster shot should do so before the next, larger wave of people seeking one comes along.
Polis also said the FDA has “blood on their hands” – saying the administration should not be delaying rolling out the boosters and approving vaccines for younger children. He said the FDA “should get out of the way and allow people to make this choice to protect themselves” when it comes to getting a booster shot.
He said he was celebrating that Marion Gruber and Philip Krause were leaving the FDA – something “we can all celebrate,” as the governor said. The two have been among those opposed to rolling out the booster shots.