By Conor McCue

DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – One thousand Coloradans, aged 70 and over, received their COVID-19 vaccinations Sunday at drive thru event in the parking lot at Coors Field.

(credit: CBS)

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The clinic was the state’s first mass vaccination event, and a trial run for an even larger vaccination event scheduled for next weekend. It was put on through a partnership between UCHealth, the Colorado Rockies, the state, and the City and County of Denver.

Dr. Richard Zane, Chief of Emergency Medicine for UCHealth, called the trial run a success Sunday morning.

“We spent a lot of time, down to the micro detail, to make sure this was going to go right, and we’re happy that it’s a sunny day and that people are coming and that they feel good about it,” Zane said.

(credit: CBS)

The event started at 8 a.m., with a run through involving the first 30 scheduled patients. After that, officials met to make tweaks, such as adding another flagger to direct traffic.

An hour later, the event was opened up for the remaining 970 patients, who all had appointments spread across a two-hour window.

Going into Sunday, UCHealth made it clear there would be no walk-ups or ride-alongs allowed. If someone 70 and older was interested in taking part in the event, they were instructed to sign up on the UCHealth website or call the UCHealth hotline for an appointment.

Of those that registered, 1,000 people were randomly selected to schedule an appointment. According to Zane, half were UCHealth patients. Another 400 signed up online, and 100 received phone calls about the opportunity.

(credit: CBS)

“We knew the way this should work is by having people have appointments, not first come first serve, and timed appointments, and that’s why it’s gone so smoothly and why we’ve been able to do so many patients in a short period of time,” Zane said.

Throughout the main two-hour window of the event, the vaccination process appeared seamless.

Patients would check in virtually or at the entrance of the parking lot, drive to their designated tent, receive a vaccine, and then park in a separate lot for a required 15-minute observation period. According to Zane, the average patient took about 25 minutes to complete the full vaccination process.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s very well organized and it seems like everyone knows what they’re doing,” said one patient who didn’t share their name.

Some patients drove themselves to the event and others were given rides by family members or friends. Tom Tedesco drove his wife, Karlyne, to get her first shot, and said he’s hoping to get his own at the next event.

“I want to get back into restaurants and get to see the kids and not have to worry if they saw somebody who was sick and just enjoy yourself again,” Tedesco said.

The vaccination process was also made accessible for non-English speakers through translator tablets.

“I know people who lost their parents, you know?” said Gloria Vargas, who came with her father Jose, who doesn’t speak English. “I just feel so lucky that we’re able to give it to him and he’s OK.”

UCHealth officials have said this event was a trial run for a larger vaccination clinic scheduled next weekend. When asked about the previously stated goal of vaccinating 10,000 people over two days next weekend, Dr. Zane expressed confidence.

“We had planned on being able to do 5,000 in a day, and it looks like we’ll probably be able to do 8,000 in a day depending on daylight and the amount of vaccine that we can get,” Zane said. “The biggest limiting factor that we have now is the supply of vaccine.”

By doing the first event Sunday, Zane said UCHealth was creating a playbook for others to recreate similar clinics around the state. It could be one more tool to help the state meet its goals of vaccinating all older Coloradans by the end of February.

“Large scale vaccination clinics like this, fixed clinics, and then mobile clinics going into areas that are difficult to access – all three, all at the same time, with enough vaccine, and we can put this pandemic behind us,” Zane said.

All patients who received a shot on Sunday are already scheduled for their second shot three weeks from now, Zane said.

Anyone interested in joining the appointment lottery for next weekend’s vaccination event can sign up on the UCHealth website. Anyone who doesn’t have access to a computer or smartphone may call UCHealth’s vaccine hotline at 720.462.2255.

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As vaccine and appointments are available, UCHealth will reach out to those on the list to let them make an appointment.

Conor McCue