Jeffco recently reached an important milestone in its initial COVID-19 vaccination efforts as more than 50% of Jeffco residents over the age of 70 have now received at least one vaccination shot, a public health official announced on Feb. 10.
“Through the efforts of Jefferson County Public Health and the larger health care system about 53% of our residents age 70-plus have received at least one dose of the vaccine (which requires two doses),” JCPH Director of Community Health Services Margaret Huffman said during a meeting of public health officials and Jeffco city and county leaders. “And about 10% of that 53% have received two doses.”
Huffman said the county has been able to pick up of the pace of vaccinations as a result of an increase in the number that have been allocated to the county from the state. There are roughly 64,000 Jeffco residents 70 and over.
“We’ve been receiving about 4,000 to 5,000 vaccines to distribute every week in Jefferson County to administer. And this week we have received a bump in that so fortunately that’s really going to help us going forward,” Huffman said.
In recent weeks, Huffman and other officials had raised concerned that Jeffco residents were being vaccinated more slowly than those in other counties. Jeffco has a disproportionately high number of elderly residents and the amount of vaccine being allocated was not reflecting that. However, Huffman said the increase in vaccines has helped to make up that gap. Gov. Jared Polis has repeatedly said it is the state’s goal to vaccinate 70% of those over 70 by the end of the month.
However even as more people over 70 are getting vaccinated, Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg expressed concern that Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to open up eligibility for the vaccine to more individuals means people in their 70s are now getting crowded out by those in their 6os.
“That’s the big concern for those who have been on these lists for a month-and-a-half now and still haven’t gotten any calls,” said Weinberg. “And now it’s been opened up to that 65-plus population and so are they getting further down the list?”
Huffman said that the county is currently still limiting access to its vaccination site in Arvada to residents in their 70s and health care workers. However, she did not address whether other vaccination providers, including the county’s two hospitals which are receiving the majority of its vaccine allocations, are also prioritizing people in their 70s over those in their 60s.
Weinberg said she was also troubled by the difficulty faced by the Foothills Housing Authority was facing in bringing vaccination clinics to its low-income senior housing sites in Golden and other cities.
Weinberg said the Jeffco nonprofit Benefits in Action recently began providing transportation for seniors living at those sites to get the vaccine when their name comes up for one. However, she said that process is much slower and less efficient than bringing a vaccine clinic to where all residents would be.
“Foothills Housing Authority could really use our assistance in getting their asks for clinics at their low-income senior sites prioritized through the state,” she said. “This is a vulnerable population that needs help.”
JCPH Deputy Director Jody Erwin said a planning team at JCPH had just met that morning about getting more vaccine clinics out to places like low-income senior housing locations.
“They’re moving along pretty quickly,” he said. “They just wanted to make sure they had our blessing as an executive team to make these decisions about getting out into these communities as quickly as they can and we said ‘please do go forth.’”