“It’s more important than ever before to wear masks, to avoid social gatherings,” he said. “But for people who are vaccinated, absolutely, they can start socializing more.”
He noted that being considered fully vaccinated won’t come until two weeks after someone’s final vaccine shot.
Driving the expansion is an infusion of new vaccine doses. Colorado National Guard Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, who is heading up the vaccination effort, said the state was getting 422,000 doses this week. That’s many times more than just a few weeks back. And now the state has new one-shot doses, from Johnson and Johnson, in addition to those already coming from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna.
“I’m really excited,” said Dr. Shauna Gulley, the chief clinical officer for Centura Health, which has been operating some of the state’s mass vaccination sites. “I think having the opportunity to take all willing participants to get a vaccine is a really important step for the state. It also indicates to us that the flow of vaccine supply from the federal government into the state of Colorado is increasing.”
The move comes as Colorado looks to speed up the pace of vaccinations, which first started for health care workers and older adults at the end of 2020. On March 19, the state opened up eligibility to include people 50 and older, restaurant workers, those with a pre-existing medical condition and higher education faculty.
And it happens with many factors changing all at once. Many states are opening up their economies, against the warnings it’s too soon from some public health experts. Last week, Colorado changed its COVID-19 Dial, easing restrictions on businesses like gyms and restaurants and also allowing counties to open up further if their case counts are low enough.
Wait times and equity continue to be issues for Colorado’s vaccine program.
The announcement will provide some fresh challenges to ramp up the effort. On Sunday, some getting shots at a mass vaccination site at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park faced two-to-three-hour wait times after a scheduling glitch sent hundreds of people to the site at the same time rather than spacing out appointments.
Petra Storm, from Arvada, said she was “a little surprised,” at the wait. “But it was fine. It’s fine. It’s worth it. Well worth the wait for me.”
Centura’s Gulley said its partner COVID Check Colorado described the cause for the wait as “an over-scheduling error.” She said hundreds of people came to Dick’s that didn’t previously have an appointment and weren’t planned for.
“As we press forward, our goal continues to be about a 15-minute experience for every individual that comes through any one of our sites in partnership with the state,” Gulley said. “And we’ve given 35,000 vaccines collectively through these mass vaccination events at this point.”