COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — There's a new obstacle in the push to end the COVID-19 pandemic; people who are reluctant to get vaccinated. As supplies of the vaccines have increased in local communities, demand for appointments has not kept up.
This week, the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, and El Paso County Public Health launched a new public service announcement campaign aimed at overcoming vaccine hesitancy.
It's called "don't wait, vaccinate!" The messages will be shared on television, radio, and print media, as well as on social media and billboards.
The posts and videos remind the public of moments that have been missing from the past 13 months that would return with a higher vaccination rate.
Doctor Robin Johnson, El Paso County Public Health Director, acknowledged that when the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were first approved, supplies were scarce. So, priority was given to those who were considered most at risk. That's not the case anymore.
"There really is no excuse, we have plenty of supply now," said Dr. Johnson.
Waiting to get vaccinated comes with a higher risk of getting sick with the virus. Currently, there are 50 patients being treated for the virus in UCHealth Hospitals in the Pikes Peak Region, matching a level last seen in mid-January.
These patients are also younger than those who were treated earlier in the year. In January 37 percent of UCHealth patients were age 60 or younger. That share of the patient population grew to 41 percent in February, and 54 percent in March. As of Wednesday, 55 percent of UCHealth's COVID patients are age 60 or younger.
"People who are 30, 40, 50 are getting sick enough to be hospitalized and in some cases die," said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
He hopes that the community will embrace the don't wait, vaccinate message.
"It just is a matter of common sense that we can get to where we want to go quicker if everybody goes out and gets vaccinated," Suthers said.
Pueblo County is also trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get their shot.
"If you were waiting, if you were letting other people go first, don't wait, it's your turn," said Lynn Kimbrough, an external affairs specialist for FEMA Region 8.
"It is your turn now and we don't want you to miss out."
The federal agency assumed control of the operation of the mass vaccination clinic at the Colorado State Fairgrounds on April 14th. The facility is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. No appointments are necessary.
Kimbrough explained that they've also launched a bus service to the vaccine site to help those who have transportation needs. They also have Spanish language interpreters on site to help with any language barriers that might keep people from getting vaccinated.
"If we're going to be looking at having any kind of a normal summer, this is the chance to move towards that," Kimbrough said.
Finding a vaccine provider in El Paso County is as easy as visiting ElPasoCountyHealth.org, or texting the word "vaccinate" to 667873. You can also use the State of Colorado vaccine provider map to find providers in other counties.