Vail council hears update on vaccination progress
With supplies tight, there’s an extra dose in most vaccine vials
Like just about everything else about the COVID-19 virus, things can change rapidly. That’s true of the rollout of the vaccines for the virus.
The Vail Town Council Tuesday received an update about Eagle County’s vaccination program — and had a number of questions.
Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon provided the update, talking about what’s been a shifting landscape when it comes to vaccines.
Harmon noted that every week seems to bring something different in terms of vaccine supply, reserves — or lack thereof — and how to get as many doses as possible to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
The biggest recent change is direction from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis freeing up a supply of what were supposed to be second doses to provide first doses to more people.
“This is a good thing,” Harmon said.
Another good thing is what appears to be a bit of bonus vaccine in every vial delivered. Harmon said vaccine deliveries from Pfizer are supposed to have five doses per vial. There are actually six, on average, he said. The Moderna vaccine comes packed with 10 doses per vial. There’s an average of an extra dose in every vial of that vaccine.
With that small, but significant boost in supply, and freeing extra vaccine that was originally intended for second doses, Harmon said he expects a total of 10,000 county residents to be vaccinated in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re moving rapidly” to vaccinate residents age 70 and older, Harmon said, adding that other groups on the priority list will be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Councilmember Brian Stockmar asked Harmon about the possible difficulty of obtaining second doses.
Stockmar, who is retired, said “There’s a lot of concern among people my age that I’ve talked to” about the ability to obtain second doses of the vaccine. The vaccines now available require two doses to be fully effective.
Harmon said “we have more confidence” that manufacturing will be able to meet demand for second doses. Harmon added that, if necessary, public health officials will reduce first doses in order to provide second doses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, that second dose should be administered three to four weeks after the first.
If there is a delay in getting a second dose, Harmon said, waiting another week or two “shouldn’t be a concern.” But, he added, that’s based on experiences with other vaccines, not studies with the COVID vaccine.
Helping family, neighbors
Councilmember Jen Mason told Harmon she’s helped register a number of her neighbors to get on the vaccine schedule, and asked how county officials are handling requests from those with no or limited access to the internet.
Harmon replied that public health officials are asking family members to help older relatives register. He added that people can register over the phone by calling 970-328-9750. Messages will be returned, he said.
Harmon said the county has asked agencies providing services to older residents to help register older residents.
“We would rather see someone (in the system) twice” than possibly miss anyone,” Harmon said.
Mason asked Harmon if public health officials have been working with lodges and other employers to register older employees, especially for whom Spanish is their first language.
Harmon said that hasn’t been done, but is a tactic worth considering.
Councilmember Jenn Bruno asked if people with limited mobility are able to get vaccines while still in a vehicle.
Harmon said the county has worked with Eagle County Paramedics to provide those vaccines and wait with a patient for the required 15 minutes after receiving the shot. That waiting period is needed to ensure people don’t display any immediate side effects.
Stockmar said his experience with the vaccine was only “mild” side effects, which he called “trivial, at worst.”
Harmon added that public health officials are working on other transportation options for some older residents.
While he was late to the Zoom call, Vail Health CEO Will Cook said “we’re at a turning point in this war” against the virus. Cook added that Vail Health employees have been volunteering to give the vaccine, adding that the post-shot waiting period has provided a chance to socialize.
While people are getting vaccinated, Harmon said people still need to continue to wear masks, maintain social distance and other preventive measures.
The vaccine “doesn’t change how we’re walking through life right now,” Harmon said.
• 95%: Vail public safety workers who have been vaccinated.
• 10,000: Feb. 1 estimate of Eagle County residents who have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
• 1: Extra doses contained in most vials of the vaccine.