By Conor McCue

HUGO, Colo., (CBS4) – Some of the first shipments of the recently approved Moderna vaccine left a distribution center in Tennessee Sunday. Within days, thousands of doses will be ready for the highest risk Coloradans.

(credit: Moderna)

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According to state data, more than 30,000 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in Colorado since the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine arrived last week. Soon that number will grow even more, as just under 96,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine are expected to be delivered to Colorado in the coming days.

“This vaccine is really sort of a godsend and it’s going to solve a lot of problems,” said Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo, Colorado.

The doses will be split up and sent out to 151 sites already chosen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

(credit: CBS)

One of those locations is Lincoln County Public Health, which will receive an allocation of 200 doses. According to Stansbury, Lincoln Community Hospital will receive about 100 of those doses soon after and begin administering them immediately.

This will be the first opportunity for staff at the critical access hospital and adjoining long-term care facility to get vaccinated. The facility, like many others in rural and mountain communities was not allocated any doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures and used within 5 days of thawing.

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“Moderna just offers us so much more flexibility, and then we didn’t have to invest in those high-cost freezers to store the vaccine,” Stansbury said.

While phase 1A of the state’s distribution plan prioritizes the highest risk healthcare workers and people working and living in long-term care facilities, Lincoln Community Hospital is experimenting with narrowing that group down even more. Stansbury tells CBS4 it starts with reconsidering staff members who recently tested positive.

(credit: CBS)

Within the past few weeks nearly 40 staff members have tested positive at the hospital, leading to concerns about staff shortages.

“We’ve been working with our physicians and we understand that there’s some level of immunity for up to 90 days, so we’re talking to those folks about maybe waiting 60-90 days until we vaccinate them,” Stansbury said.

According to Stansbury, that could free up doses for more high-risk staff and long-term care patients. It’s one way to use valuable resources wisely, where they’re typically fewer and farther between.

“As soon as we can get 100% of our staff vaccinated and 100% of our residents who live in our long-term care facilities vaccinated, we’re all going to breathe a huge sigh of relief,” Stansbury said.

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The state has not said yet when exactly the first shipments will arrive and how soon these facilities will receive them. In Hugo, they’re ready and able to begin vaccinating immediately, Stansbury said.

Conor McCue