DENVER (CBS4) – Hospitals and long-term care facilities in Colorado are trying to figure out how to vaccinate front-line medical workers and people most at risk as COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans get refined.
Colorado is seeking nearly 47,000 doses in the first round of vaccines. The FDA will decide Thursday whether to approve the vaccine developed by Pfizer for distribution. Pfizer is talking about starting shipment within 24 hours after approval.
“In terms of figuring who gets it first the state will be offering guidance to us in terms of the phases — who they think is appropriate and how they go about that. So I think ultimately it will be not as difficult as it might appear to be on the surface,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, infectious disease specialist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. “I think people who are seeing patients are the ones that will probably get access to the vaccine first just because they are obviously higher risk for getting exposed to COVID in the first place.”
At long-term care facilities, they are waiting for state guidance. Robin Avery co-owns The Retreat At Church Ranch in Westminster along with his wife. They’ve been able to keep the more than 50 residents from getting COVID since the start of the pandemic. In recent weeks, however, “a couple” of workers have tested positive as community exposure has widened. They are off work.
“We want to keep the COVID outside of the building,” said Avery. “To the extent of the vaccinations assisting that, we couldn’t be more happy that they’re coming down the pike. And we’re one of the first users. And as long as they clear all of the hurdles and our 360 degree view of the situation is positive we’ll implement it as soon as we can.”
The first problem is that among the first wave of vaccine recipients, there simply are not enough doses. There are over 180,000 in-patient hospital workers in Colorado. That is far more than the vaccines. Each week after the first doses, more will arrive. How much is not year clear.
“Really kind of like that question of chicken and egg in terms of the best way to approach this,” said Dr. Barron. “To be able to A) Get the pandemic under control and B) Ensure that we still health care workers to care for those that are getting sick.”
There are similar thoughts in the long-term care community.
“You know we’ve had this argument over the years, who’s more important the staff or the residents, it’s an argument that we’ll have forever.”
But he expects his staff and residents will get it the same day. As of yet, he has not heard from state health authorities on vaccines. But the plan is getting revised this week to pair long-term care residents and front-line medical workers in the first wave. It’s just not clear yet, how much vaccine there will be.
“But we expect with our relationships with physician groups and hospital that they’re going to take the lead,” said Avery. “We’re going to look at their data, together we’re going to make a decision to start a vaccination, inoculation program. And the sooner the better frankly.”