DENVER – Colorado is putting federal COVID-19 funding toward a new grant program that aims to give primary care providers more ability to vaccinate their patients as the state tries to push the remaining group of vaccine-hesitant people to get the shot.
Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday announced the COVID-19 Primary Care Vaccination Program, which primary care practices will be able to utilize to apply for tens of thousands of dollars in grant money to either start providing vaccines or to boost their efforts.
The money will go out on a first-come, first-served basis, Polis said at a news conference. Applications opened Thursday and will close on Dec. 1. The program will run from Sept. 2 through February 28 of next year. The state says a total of approximately $60 million is available.
If applications are accepted, the funding would be handed out based on how many primary care providers (PCP) work at each clinical site within a practice. Sites with 1-3 PCPs are eligible for up to $60,000; those with 4-8 PCPs can get up to $90,000; and sites with more than 9 PCPs are eligible for up to $120,000.
The Colorado Health Institute will review the applications and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will disperse the funding, according to the state.
Practices will have to apply on behalf of their clinical sites – up to five per application – and will have needed to have started the process to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider if they are not already enrolled.
Practices that do want to apply can click here to find out more information on how to do so.
The governor was joined by two medical doctors – Dr. Marc Moss, the head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine-Anschutz, and Dr. Aaron Shupp, a family medicine specialist at Rocky Mountain Primary Care.
Both strongly urged people who have not yet been vaccinated to do so. Shupp discussed a longtime patient of his who for months had rejected getting vaccinated until his uncle died this summer, after which he and his wife decided it was time to get the vaccine.
He said the grant program would help his clinic get more people vaccinated because it will help pay for things like extra staff and technology to reach out to patients who have not yet been vaccinated. He also said the grant money would help provide more vaccines to people who do not have a primary care provider but who will be able to utilize the local physician's offices or clinics.
Moss drew a dire picture of health care and hospital staff being on the brink of quitting after 18 months of caring for COVID-19 patients, worrying about their own health, and now having to continue to care for patients, most of whom are not vaccinated, who continue to end up in intensive care units with COVID-19.
“The new wave of predominantly unvaccinated people may ultimately break the souls of my colleagues,” Moss said, adding that it is the virus and not the vaccine that was the true enemy. “…No one else needs to die from this preventable disease.”
As of this week, 75% of Colorado adults have gotten at least their first vaccine shot, but only about 55% of kids ages 12-17 have done so.
Polis said Thursday that 87% of 796 people confirmed to have COVID-19 who are currently hospitalized in Colorado are unvaccinated.
“This is a crisis of the unvaccinated,” the governor said.
Dr. Yadira Caraveo, a Democratic state representative from Thornton who is also the tri-chair of the Colorado Vaccine Equity Task Force, applauded the move.
“We know that our family doctors and pediatricians are trusted resources for families across the state. We also know that too many families don’t have this trusted resource in their life and should,” she said in a statement. “By making it easier for physicians in clinics and offices across the state to administer the free COVID-19 vaccines, we might not only boost our community immunity to the virus, but also begin to make these critical health care connections for more Coloradans."
Polis said case and hospitalization trends in Colorado appear to have plateaued recently but are not yet declining. He and the doctors said they hoped that the grant program could help primary care providers reach the roughly 10-15% of the remaining unvaccinated population who might actually want to get the vaccine.
“We know that the best way to reach the remaining 25% is through their family doctor, whom they trust to treat them for common health issues, which is why we are empowering our local doctors across Colorado to order and administer the COVID vaccine right then and there,” Polis said.