A large-scale COVID-19 vaccination effort sought to vaccinate 4,000 people in Southwest Colorado over the weekend.
Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said the state of Colorado contacted local health departments March 2, announcing an incoming shipment of 45,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the state.
State health officials, Jollon said, wanted the vaccines to be administered in a three-day timespan over the weekend.
Jollon said SJBPH applied for 3,000 to 4,500 vaccines, and ultimately was given 4,000, nearly 10% of the entire supply. She said SJBPH received such a large portion because it proved it had an efficient way to administer the vaccine.
Jollon said 1,200 people were vaccinated in just six hours with the Johnson & Johnson dose Friday, and another 1,000 people planned to be vaccinated Saturday. (A couple hundred people also received their second Pfizer shot. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)
Another vaccination event was held Sunday at the Pagosa Springs Community Center at 451 Hot Springs Blvd.
Nearly 3,400 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine were administered during the three-day event.
About 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson doses were reserved for hard-to-reach populations, Jollon said.
While the supply of vaccines remains uneven, it is growing, Jollon said. It does not appear there will be another large-scale vaccination event with Johnson & Johnson doses until at least the end of March or the beginning of April. Jollon did say there could be some opportunities for the Pfizer vaccine before the end of this month.
Jollon said SJBPH does not expect any major shipments in the next few weeks. However, health departments have been notified that by late March/early April, the state of Colorado could receive 500,000 doses a week.
As a result, people who had their first Pfizer shot will be able to receive a second dose next weekend, but no communitywide events are planned. The weekend after, SJBPH will start to prepare to ramp up for what could be regular large shipments of vaccines.
In La Plata County, a grassroots effort launched the first large-scale, communitywide COVID-19 vaccination site at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, which started administering doses in January.
Karen Zink, certified nurse practitioner with Southwest Women’s Health Associates and member of the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Team, said the effort was a huge success.
“This has been the most sweet and marvelous experience,” Zink said Saturday.
Zink said hundreds of La Plata County residents signed up to be volunteers to help with the effort. Many volunteers have since gone on to train other people or help out in other areas.
“It was so heartwarming,” Zink said. “The community cooperation has just been unbelievably wonderful.”
As the community now prepares for expected large shipments and administrations of the COVID-19 vaccine in late March/early April, the vaccination efforts will be organized through SJBPH and partners, Jollon said.
La Plata County’s population is estimated at around 56,270 residents.
According to SJBPH data, as of Monday, 17% of La Plata County residents had completed vaccination, and another 28% had received at least one dose of vaccine.