The Crestone Eagle • January, 2021

COVID vaccine being distributed in the San Luis Valley

–SLV Public Health update

San Luis Valley Healthcare Coalition members met virtually and will continue to meet regularly to share information and coordinate COVID-19 response, including vaccines. Although it will take some time for the full benefits of vaccines to return us to “normal”, this is a big step forward. Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms said, “The COVID-19 vaccine is offering us hope in the fight against a world-wide pandemic that has thrown daily life into a turmoil.  It’s the game-changer that will allow us to once again be together, to travel, to visit our parents and loved ones in assisted living and nursing homes, to plan weddings and to simply enjoy being together without fear.  I am excited and grateful that the vaccine has been made available to the rural areas such as the San Luis Valley, starting this week.” 

How will Phase 1 vaccinations be given in the San Luis Valley?

In Phase 1A, vaccination of hospital personnel will be coordinated by the hospitals in partnership with other vaccine providers (if necessary).  Similarly under this Phase 1A, vaccines for employees and residents of longterm care facilities are being covered through agreements at the state and federal levels, separate from local public health agencies.  

Public health agencies are preparing to offer vaccines to others who fall under Phase 1B, including high-risk first responders, very soon. 

How many doses of the vaccine will I need? 

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses. You will be given specific information about spacing of doses and other details, depending on which vaccine you receive.  If it’s Pfizer—two shots are given approximately 21 days apart, while if it’s Moderna, the two shots are given 28 days apart. The spacing between doses has been determined by the vaccine manufacturers to optimize your body’s ability to create antibodies to fight the virus. Plan to get your second dose on time. 

Will I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing after I am vaccinated? 

For now, yes. It will take time after the vaccination for your body to respond and make enough antibodies to protect you. This could take up to one to two weeks after your (last) second dose. Current information suggests that it is possible that someone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 may still have a mild or asymptomatic infection or spread the virus to others. So it is important to continue taking precautions. Continue wearing masks and practicing physical distancing until it is clear that it is safe to stop.

Who decides how vaccines are being distributed?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently published the first planned allocations of vaccines across the state. Allocations are determined by the State based on population and other factors. Rio Grande Hospital will receive 50 doses of Pfizer vaccine this week. The next shipments to the San Luis Valley will be Moderna vaccines. The minimum shipment of the Moderna vaccine is 100 doses, which is what most of our public health agencies will receive for this first round in December. Alamosa County will receive 600 doses, Rio Grande County will receive 100 doses. Vaccine administration will look a little different in each county. In addition to covering the highest risk individuals first, consideration is being given to making sure that vaccine is not wasted. Once the vaccine is thawed, it must be used within a short window of time, so careful planning is essential. 

When will it be my turn to be vaccinated? 

Across the state, it will take a while to work our way through Phase 1. We hope to move into Phase 2 in the spring. In Phase 2, essential workers and higher risk individuals such as those with certain health conditions will be given the opportunity to be vaccinated. Next summer we expect that vaccine supplies will be sufficient to offer vaccinations to the general public. All of these plans are subject to change as we continue to learn more about the virus and state and federal guidance evolve. 

More answers to vaccine questions 

People have many more questions about vaccines that we can answer here and now. We will continue to share more information in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find answers to most vaccine questions at https://covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine. You may also call 719-480-8719 with questions.