By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Physical therapist Emily Roberts waited a few minutes at the Safeway at 14th Avenue and Krameria Street after getting her COVID shot. It was part of the process to check to see if she had any reaction.

“The actual vaccine didn’t hurt at all,” she said.


(credit: CBS)

Even the process of signing up and getting in had gone well for her. Her medical offices had gotten the information about how to get shots and shared it.

“They put out a link to us and so they just forwarded on to our staff, so we found it all through the county’s website.”

She signed up, went in and as part of Phase 1B in the vaccination plan, there she was getting her shot Tuesday night.

“That’s obviously the priority, to get vaccines into arms to save lives, but with that we want to make sure that whoever is eligible for a vaccine right now can get that without jumping through a lot of hoops,” said Cali Zimmerman, emergency management coordinator for the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment.

(credit: CBS)

It will require some honesty from the people signing up, that they belong in that wave, says Zimmerman.

“Trying to make sure that we keep it a low barrier while using the honor system is a hard balance to strike.”

“We’ve been working on COVID vaccine distribution for a couple months now,” said Nikki Price, director of pharmacy operations for Albertson’s – Safeway. She’s in charge of pharmacies in eight states. Three Safeway stores in Denver are currently offering vaccinations. There are 19 offering vaccines in the state. Safeway is working with a dozen counties total, including the counties of Tri-County Health, Boulder, Larimer, Jefferson and El Paso.

“Pretty much the allocations that we’re receiving, we go through them in a couple days then we’re requesting more from the state or from the local health department,” Price said.

Safeway is planning to expand vaccinations to all of its 98 stores.

“So we’re working very closely with each health department. Some are ready to go in the next week or so. Some maybe just a little bit longer than that, but it will be ready to go within the next 7 to 10 days.”

Interest in vaccine is high. The barrage of questions is coming at Safeway pharmacists as well as doctors’ offices all over Colorado.

“We have limited supply right now and the entire purpose of these phases for vaccine distribution is to make sure those at highest risk get it first, said Zimmerman. So much so, that people posted a link to the vaccine sign-up on social media, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

“That link was unfortunately shared publicly through Facebook and folks that should not have had access did. And they essentially bombarded our system and it made it that we no longer were actually reaching folks that were eligible in Phase 1A and 1B.”

Links and the registration system are being rebuilt to re-release Wednesday. Denver still doesn’t want to make it difficult to sign up for vaccines.

The largest group of Phase 1 vaccine recipients are still to come. The number of people over 70 in the state is approximately 562,000. While not all are certain to choose to get the vaccine, the effort to vaccinate all will involve many more vaccine providers.

“Our community should really appreciate our county departments of health,” said Price. “This is an historic moment in time and something that you’ll be able to say ‘I was part of the solution. I was able to help my community.'”

Registration will open more broadly to people when that comes around.

“Keep checking out our website for updated information, then we can connect them with either our Safeway pharmacy partners, other pharmacy partners that we develop, as well as our hospital partners,” said Zimmerman.

Alan Gionet