Coloradans 65+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine next week

One of the leaders of Colorado’s COVID-19 vaccination effort tried to scale back people’s expectations Monday, saying many people in the 65 to 69 age group won’t get the shot for another month.

Gov. Jared Polis had said late last week that age group, plus those working directly with kids in grades preschool to 12 and child care workers would be eligible for the vaccine starting Feb. 8. Currently, only health care workers, first responders and people over 70 are eligible.

About 39% of Colorado’s population above 70 has gotten the first shot, Colorado National Guard Brigadier Gen. Scott Sherman said at Monday’s news conference. The state will continue to prioritize people over 70, he said, which means about half of people in the 65 to 69 age group will likely have to wait until March for their first shot.

He didn’t specify how the state would ensure its oldest residents go first, and asked newly eligible people to be patient and not sign up on multiple waiting lists. That directly contradicts the governor, who recently said he saw no problem with getting on more than one list.

“That just holds up an appointment that someone else could be using,” Sherman said.

If vaccination continues as projected, the state will exceed the goal of vaccinating at least 70% of people 70-and-up by the end of February, he said.

Vaccinating the most vulnerable groups will allow the state to make changes to its metrics and restrictions dial, said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The framework attempts to standardize how many people a business or activity can host, based on new cases in each county, hospitalizations and the percentage of tests coming back positive.

The draft proposal, which was released Saturday, would raise the number of cases a county can have before being forced to adopt stronger restrictions. On the other side, it would lower the percent of tests coming back positive needed to trigger more restrictions.

France said it becomes possible to safely allow more business activity as health care workers and the people most likely to be hospitalized are vaccinated, adding, “there are different interventions depending on where you are.”

Overall, Colorado appears to be in a better place than most states, with the eighth-lowest rate of new cases compared to its population in the U.S. Hospitalizations and new cases are still falling, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said, though not as quickly as they did after the peak in November.

The state lab has found 13 cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first reported in the United Kingdom, Herlihy said. They also detected three cases of a variant found in California, though it’s not clear if that type has any characteristics that make it more worrisome than the original virus, she said.

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