AURORA, Colo. — New numbers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show nearly 152,000 Coloradans may be overdue for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which means they're only partially protected as the nation grapples with another surge in cases.
The delta variant is spreading like wildfire. Across the UCHealth system, patients battling COVID-19 reached an all-time high in three months, with 125 people who are severely ill. Unvaccinated patients making up 96% of hospitalizations, and 4% have underlying health problems.
Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention at UCHealth Dr. Michelle Barron says time is of the essence, and people need to stop waiting and debating and get vaccinated.
“There has been over a billion vaccines given across the world. They are safe, they are highly effective, and if we are ever going to get back to some type of normalcy, everybody has to pitch in, and everybody has to care about somebody beyond themselves,” Barron said.
So far, 70% of Coloradans have received one dose of the vaccine, and 65% are fully vaccinated.
Currently, 151,900 people are overdue for a second vaccine, according to CDPHE. It’s possible that the number of people behind on their follow-up shot received a second dose outside of the state or through a federal agency, which isn’t tracked by the state’s system.
However, those who put off the second vaccine dose now face a greater threat of contracting the delta variant. Barron said studies out of the U.K. show people who received only one of two vaccines are only about 30% protected.
“It means you have two-thirds chance that you are going to end up in the hospital,” Barron said.
She stressed that it’s not too late to get a second dose, even if the grace period between shots has been exceeded.
“It doesn’t actually matter. That was set-up to somewhat get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible,” Barron said. “There is really nothing immunologically that suggests that you have to start the series over.”
Colorado has funneled millions of dollars into incentive programs to get more shots into arms and help save lives
“If you have full protection from the two doses, you are significantly less likely to end up in the hospital — not likely to die from it,” Barron said.
More than a year into the pandemic, Barron admits she’s frustrated people are still hesitant to get the vaccine and willing to put their lives and the lives of others at risk.
“It’s frustrating, obviously, because we think we have really good, safe, effective ways to prevent this,” Barron said.
While the initial rollout of the vaccines was limited, required online appointments and long hours on the phone to schedule a shot, things have turned around. There are 1,581 vaccine providers across the state.
“It’s important to get it now. Stop waiting; there is no excuse. There are opportunities everywhere,” Barron said. “Now, you don’t have to have appointments; you can just show up.”
UCHealth is offering additional vaccine clinics Aug. 7 and Aug. 14, and walk-ins are welcome. The clinics will be held from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the University of Colorado, Medical Center of the Rockies and the Memorial Administrative Center.