FORT COLLINS – A front-line medical worker got Colorado’s first COVID-19 vaccination shot Monday, launching what’s expected to be a monthslong effort to inoculate people statewide against the coronavirus.
“The vaccine isn’t the end of it, but it is the light at the end of the tunnel,” respiratory therapist Kevin Londrigan said before getting the shot at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.
Hospital officials were giving vaccination shots to 20 health care workers Monday as Gov. Jared Polis looked on. Another 20 were set for shots Monday at UCHealth’s Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, The Denver Post reported.
“Whoever thought we’d be excited to see a needle?” Polis said.
Earlier Monday, Polis personally signed for Colorado’s first delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history.
On a frigid morning in Denver, a FedEx driver delivered a box containing 975 frozen vials of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner, BioNTech, to Colorado’s state health department laboratory.
Polis eagerly signed for the package. After opening the box, he held down a tracking device for five seconds to confirm that Colorado had received the doses. A small tray of doses inside the box was then put in a freezer obtained by the state just for the vaccine.
“It’s a powerful and an emotional moment to celebrate the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Polis, who recently contracted COVID-19 along with his partner, Marlon Reis.
Colorado is expecting 46,800 does of the Pfizer vaccine through Wednesday that will be stored in freezers around the state. Polis urged hospitals receiving the first vaccines to administer them within 72 hours so that plans for the next shipments – and for future second doses required by the Pfizer vaccine – can proceed.
Colorado’s initial shipments also include 95,600 doses of a vaccine developed by Moderna.
Health facilities in urban and rural Colorado will get initial shipments. The locations were selected for their ability to store the vaccines in ultra-cold temperatures and their willingness to redistribute the vaccines to other providers. The state purchased 10 ultra-cold storage units as distribution centers.
The first phase of vaccines – which is expected to last through the winter – will be given to healthcare workers who have direct contact with coronavirus patients and staff and residents in long-term care facilities that have experienced some of the worst outbreaks in the state and across the U.S.
The next group will include hospital staff with less COVID-19 patient contact as well as those in hospice and dental settings. First responders will also be included in this group with paramedics, firefighters, police, correctional workers, dispatch workers and funeral service employees.
By the spring, Phase 2 will include people over 65, people of any age with high risks such as heart disease, cancer or immunocompromised systems. The vaccine will also be given to essential workers, people in high-density workplaces, other health care workers and adults who received a placebo in vaccine trials.
The final phase, expected to take place by the summer, will go to the general public for anyone over the age of 18.
More than 3,000 Colorado residents have died from the virus and nearly 290,000 residents have been infected. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some – especially older adults and people with existing health problems – it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.