By Alan Gionet

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Don and Sue Romek are going to go the extra mile for a COVID-19 vaccine — a lot of them. After a big effort, they managed to find an appointment for a vaccine in Greeley. They’ll make the drive next week.

“So now we’re going to get some freedom, probably,” said Sue. At 77 and 73 years old, and in good health, they are part of the 70+ category of more than 560,000 Coloradans, most of whom are still waiting for the vaccine.

(credit: CBS)

It took some work and a son who pushed them a little. They went on the internet and made phone calls.

“We got a myriad of phone numbers to call. So I was on the phone and listening to their canned messages, but they all said the same thing. We don’t have anything available right now.”

They took part in a conference call with the county, says Don.

“But they weren’t much help either. They just said, ‘we don’t know.’”

Sue spent hours and hours online trying to find a spot among Safeway’s program.

“I was twice a day, morning and night trying to find an open spot.”

There just isn’t enough vaccine yet says Ben Wiederholt, CEO of Stride Community Health. Stride started vaccinating people older than 70 on Friday in a small event at the JeffCo Stadium. They are planning a few hundred more for Saturday at Smoky Hill High School.

They’ve removed a pre-registration option from their web page, due to demand, which hurt.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re trying to be an organization where we under-promise and over- deliver, and so it’s from a managing the expectations standpoint. We’re here for the community, and we want to meet every need, but there are some things that are outside of our control.”

County health departments and the state health department are doling out vaccines after getting them through the federal government. There simply isn’t enough yet.

Stride has learned quickly that getting them to the older population involves more than registering people through a website. Many are not web proficient. Instead, they call.

“More than anything they appreciated having somebody to connect with to create that human connection. And they have a lot of questions. We’ve talked to some of our staff that have been on the phone for 20, 30 minutes.”

That is a significant commitment of resources. Far greater than online sign-ups.

“For now, our position is to connect with as many seniors as we possibly can and answer questions. To be up front. To be transparent with them to let them know.”

Stride and other providers are concerned about reaching some of the most vulnerable; some in the upper age ranges with no internet service and perhaps no one to help them.

(credit: CBS)

Immigrant populations are a huge concern given the pandemic’s heavy toll. Denver Health Medical Center is calling its past patients and other family members if they have contacts.

Reaching out into immigrant communities is bound to have special challenges, especially with people who might have reluctance to provide personal information.

The state does have a page where there’s information and a phone number to call, but calls are going slowly. Information is thin and truly there is no certainty about when Colorado will get enough vaccine to get through the entire 70+ population.

“I understand. I just think it can be better coordinated by the state,” said Don Romek.

They’ll head to Greeley for their shot, weary of the grind of the pandemic and ready to gain some protection.

“We are tired of this. We’ve been towing the mark. We’ve been staying in. We didn’t get to see the family at Christmas. You’ve got to take the initiative and just keep after it,” said Sue.

LINK: Colorado Vaccine Information

Alan Gionet