vaccination shortage

Pitkin County residents at least 70 years old received their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot in Aspen last week. 

Following last week’s successful vaccination clinic at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot, Pitkin County received news that was anything but music to the ears. 

“We had requested 1,500 vaccines for this week,” Jon Peacock, Pitkin County manager, said during Tuesday’s BOCC worksession. “We are currently not scheduled to receive any.”

Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said the state was “lied to” by the Trump administration after being told it would receive approximately 210,000 vaccines from a federal reserve of doses that simply did not exist.

 “That would’ve equated to about three weeks’ supply in one week for Colorado,” Polis said at a news conference last week. “That was unfortunately not true.”

In a news release issued Tuesday, Polis said, “The reality is we are exhausting our supply each week and it’s frustrating how slow we are receiving vaccination doses, but we are hopeful that the amount we recover will increase over time.”

Eleven hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to Pitkin County residents, primarily 70 years of age and older, at the drive-thru site established at the music tent last week — and at the time, the plan was to administer at least as many the following week. 

According to Aspen Valley Hospital Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Slaughter, AVH, Pitkin County and Community Health Services were not scheduled to receive any first doses of the vaccine this week, however.

“Community Health Services received 100 doses that they will administer this week, which are second doses for individuals who received their first Moderna dose four weeks ago,” Slaughter said in an email. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has indicated that everyone in Pitkin County who received their first dose will get their second dose in the appropriate time frame, despite the federal error.

During Tuesday’s worksession, commissioners praised the vaccination drive-thru clinic’s efficiency but were concerned about its accessibility to people without vehicles and the possibility of individuals not showing up for their second doses. 

“We need to make sure people get that second vaccine because that’s what makes the whole picture a picture,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “We really need to push that out there.”

Commissioner Steve Childsaid he was “very impressed” with the vaccination clinic but suggested implementing a volunteer driver program to pick up individuals 70 years of age or older who qualify for vaccination but don’t have cars.

“Maybe we need to set up a walk-in part … in the tent there for people who live in town or who come on bus who don’t have a car,” Child said. “Maybe when the weather gets warmer, that will work better for other parts of the population. I’m also concerned about the large number of people not getting their second shots because that reduces the efficacy.”

Public health officials have stressed that it can take time before a county will see the impacts of red-level restrictions on its incidence rate. On Sunday, Pitkin County implemented red-level restrictions, which prohibits indoor dining, among other things. As of Tuesday, Pitkin County’s 14-day incidence rate was well into red-level metrics, at 2,432 per 100,000 residents. A two-week incidence rate of greater than 350 qualifies as level-red metrics, according to CDPHE. 

As of Tuesday, three of AVH’s four ICU beds were still available.

“If we do get vaccines, we will be scheduling appointments and getting them into arms. And if we don’t, we’ll stand ready for a distribution next week,” Peacock said. “We understand the state is dealing with a limited supply and having to prioritize.”

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com