By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis told COVID-19 vaccine providers to stop holding back dose in reserve for second shots. Instead, the providers are going to give more Coloradans who are 70 years old or older their first shot. The doses currently in reserve will allow about 40,000 more people to be vaccinated this week. This means, combined with this week’s vaccinations, more than 120,000 people will be able to get their first shot.

Polis told CBS4’s Alan Gionet Monday night, “Rather than have these vaccines sit at hospitals for a week or two we want to make sure they’re used as first doses to begin that protection clock for more of our seniors.”

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Hospitals and other vaccine providers that are holding doses and do not currently vaccinating people over 70 will have to immediately ship them back to the state and local health departments for redistribution.

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“I am writing to you today to request that you immediately implement best practices in vaccine supply management to maximize our efficiency in vaccine administration to end the pandemic and save as many lives as possible. Due to the large quantities we received of first doses over the Christmas and New Years holidays and the slower administration that happened at that same time, we now have about 40,000 doses in the state for second doses that are not scheduled to be needed for second doses right now,” Polis stated in the letter.

Polis says this change won’t effect the schedule of those receiving their second shot.

“Everybody’s second dose will be there on the schedule,” said Polis. ”This simply means that in those future weeks, we might divert some that might have gone to first dose to second dose.”

Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 Incident Commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said, “There is, at this point, no indication from Operation Warp speed that there is a huge amount that’s going to come in. Though they have indicated to us that vaccine manufacturers are going to be increasing the availability of supply in the coming weeks and the coming months so we do anticipate that this is going to continue to improve.”

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(credit: CBS)

Polis said he had done the math on changing the plan to hold vaccines out for second doses.

“This is a race against the clock to get people vaccinated with the new variant with the potential for another peak. We want to avoid that will getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

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“I ask you to begin to actively manage your supply on a week to week basis, and do not let any vaccines sit on shelves,” Polis said.

He says hospitals can limit first doses to make sure everyone gets a second dose on time if there is an unexpected delay in supply.

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Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced three or four weeks apart, respectively.

Alan Gionet