By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) — Colorado got through its first day of vaccinations for everyone over the age of 16, and while some people were sharing ideas on how to get it, health experts were wondering how to get it to more people — and how to make more want it.

(credit: CBS)

“Young adults have pretty consistently have been less inclined to express willingness to vaccines,” said Glen Mays, a professor of health policy at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz.

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There is still a lot of waiting and angling for a vaccine, even as the supply increases.

“I’ve been trying to do it for probably at least a couple months now. It’s been hard to get and appointment,” said Riley Parker as she waited for her vaccine appointment at a Denver Safeway store. “I feel really positive about how things are going.”

With vaccinations now open to younger people who are likely to be the most adept at booking appointments online, there are still many older Coloradans who have yet to get vaccinations they need and want, says Janes Barnes, executive director of Benefits in Action in Lakewood.

“Now they’re fighting with 16 year olds for spots in the clinics. And probably not as well suited to get those spots first.”

The nonprofit helps people who have no computer, email or cell phone among others. They have an email and phone line to provide for bookings, then call people who are waiting for vaccines.

“We have better luck with folks like JeffCo Public Health. They send us links and we register people for their clinics as well,” Barnes said. “They’ve been great to work with.”

Barnes notes that transportation is still a big issue for many, especially those who don’t drive.

“We’re getting a lot of clinics that are [saying] three days from now, two days from now or tomorrow. We’re doing a lot of calling people saying, ‘Hey would you like a vaccine I can get you in tomorrow at 10 o’clock, are you available?’ But it takes days for some to arrange rides. “

Big drive-up clinics and unfamiliar places might also add to the difficulty.

(credit: CBS)

“They feel a lot more comfortable if they can go to the church they always go to, with their friends who go to church and they all get the vaccine on the same day,” said Barnes.

The previous phase that included people 50-plus had only been going for a short time before the opening of the vaccine protocol to all over 16, so there are many more of the previous phase still needing it. But Barnes believes opening it wider may actually be better for older Coloradans.

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“Families can now go together. It just made so much sense to me. To be able to really think about let’s get a whole community vaccinated, let’s not pick and choose to gets to be vaccinated.”

Experts have said vaccinations will likely have to be 70% of the population or more to reach herd immunity. While interest in getting vaccinated appears to be rising, surveys have shown fewer are willing. There are a series of issues said Mays.

“We’ve got to get this population vaccinated to begin to see the end to this pandemic. But I think our younger adults, some segments of them are going to be a tougher sell,” Mays said.

Glen Mays (credit: CBS)

But there’s good reason to try to get young people vaccinated when it comes to their ability to share disease, which can be done by those who are asymptomatic.

“They’re more mobile, they’re having more interactions, particularly interactions with folks outside of their immediate household.”

While there are plenty of people waiting for shots right now, Health officials will likely have to make the case to those who are hesitant in the weeks and months ahead.

“We need to be very tailored and strategic in the messaging going forward in the massaging campaign,” Mays added. Part of it may have to include the reality that COVID-19 has been politicized.

“We certainly know that attitudes about the vaccine and vaccination do vary sharply based on political orientation… People who affiliate as Republican, significantly less likely to express interest and intention to get vaccinated other than people on other points of the political spectrum.”

All of that will come as the percentage of hospitalized patients of a younger age is rising. It may be variants says Mays.

“It’s possible that the new more transmissible virus variants may have accelerated that potential.”

But the possibility of a greater threat was not necessary for Riley Parker to want to get vaccinated.

“I would just say listen to the experts, listen to science and trust, trust what they’re telling you.”

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Benefits in Action has a phone number and email for people who are having a tough time signing up for vaccinations and think they need assistance: 720 902-5052 and vaccines@benefitsinaction.org

Alan Gionet