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How are Colorado counties keeping locals informed on their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted at 5:33 AM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 14:33:54-05

DENVER— It’s the burning question hitting the Denver7 inbox: When and where can I get my COVID-19 vaccine if I meet the phase requirements? The various answers are causing confusion as counties across Colorado scramble to put a plan together in tiers that will blanket a wider community reach.

The emails Denver7 has received are filled with concern and desperation. Many add that they can't seem to get answers from state or local health officials on how to register for the vaccine.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website says a majority of recipients in the early phase are getting the vaccination through their employer, local public health agency or the federal government.

Denver7 reached out to several counties seeking more specific plans.

On Monday, Denver Councilwoman Deborah Ortega highlighted the lack of vaccination transparency to provide community members with accurate information during the city council meeting.

“This is my plea to the administration: I’m asking them to make sure that we are part of the conversation so that we can be as informed,” Ortega said.

Colorado has received 262,275 vaccines and administered 112,510, which is 2% of the population, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The state has used up 43% of the doses received.

South Dakota is currently leading the way in vaccination rollout. Three percent of the population has been vaccinated. The state received 43,325 vaccines and 26,913 people have received the shot. The state has used 62% of their doses.

During a press conference, Dr. David Basel with Avera Health in South Dakota and other health officials praised the robust electronic medical records for helping them contact eligible populations via email or text. Dr. Basel said unlike in other states, vaccine doses are not sitting in freezers.

“As soon as that vaccine comes in we are getting it to people,” Dr. Basel said.

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Dakota News Now Reporter Jacob Cersosimo has been following the vaccination rollout in South Dakota. He adds that health officials also point to a streamlined collaboration between the state and county health departments to get vaccinations into the arms of locals.

For context, the population in Colorado is more than five times greater than South Dakota.

Health officials have said the vaccine rollout is slower than expected. Roughly 4.6 million people have been vaccinated in the U.S., according to the CDC. Federal officials set a goal of 20 million people vaccinated before the end of December, according to the New York Times.

In an interview on CNN last Friday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said, “We are moving as fast as we can.”

He also added that there is a lag when tracking vaccinations administered. He says health officials have up to three days to enter the number of people vaccinated into the system.

In Colorado, Boulder County Public Health appears to be taking the lead. Last Friday, the county rolled out a website to help streamline the vaccination process and mitigate confusion.

Residents can sign up on the Boulder County website. They start by answering a few questions and then those who signed up will be notified via email once they're eligible for the vaccine.

Chana Goussetis, a spokesperson for Boulder County Public Health, helped roll out the website. She was part of the H1N1 response and says the COVID-19 vaccination site is modeled after a similar website they used.

“This morning we had 15,000 people sign up already,” she said on Monday.

Goussetis said the website helps people feel in control. She also adds that they also plan to use social media and community newsletters to inform people of the vaccination process.

Every county is using its own system and while some are putting their plan in place it's unclear how other counties will tackle the vaccination process.

On Monday, Summit County announced they would use an alert system called Summit County Alert to inform the public of vaccination opportunities via text, phone calls or email.

“As we continue to vaccinate members of our community, we want to ensure that everyone is aware of all opportunities for which they’re eligible,” said Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland. “So, we encourage everyone to ensure they’re subscribed to SC Alert as one of the many ways we are disseminating time-sensitive public information about COVID-19.”

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment said they are in communication with eligible groups but they’re not ready to vaccinate the general public.

Arapahoe County is holding a town hall on Thursday to answer COVID-19 vaccination questions. A Tri-County Health spokesperson said some jurisdictions are moving into Phase 1B, but added that a limited amount of vaccines means that not every provider is equipped to vaccinate community members that are 70 or older. They plan post a detailed list of vaccination opportunities on the county website within the next few weeks.

Right now, many hospitals are not giving vaccines to those 70 and older; however, Denver Health plans to start reaching out this week. Centura Health and UCHealth plan to contact patients through their online system but it’s unclear when.

CDPHE says mass vaccination clinics are also in the works.

Health officials are asking people to be patient and to keep a close eye on state and county health department websites for the latest information.