PUEBLO — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is collaborating with the state of Colorado and the Pueblo County Health Department to operate the community vaccination site at the State Fairgrounds in Pueblo for eight weeks starting April 14 in an effort to increase the number of vaccinations administered in southern Colorado.
FEMA is capable of administering 3,000 doses per day of the Pfizer vaccine.
The clinic initially ran through the health department at the Pueblo Mall. The site eventually moved to the State Fairgrounds and the state and Centura Health began helping with management. Now, FEMA has determined that Pueblo is a great place to launch an 8-week program.
"This is an area with high social vulnerability, and social vulnerability can be a bunch of different things, right? It can be race and ethnicity, it can be language, it can be lack of transportation, it could be a rural environment where people just have to travel distances," said Acting Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 8 Nancy Dragani.
Dragani says FEMA's goal is to make the vaccine as accessible as possible.
"If there's a barrier out there and we don't know about it, tell somebody here at this operation and we'll work to resolve that barrier!"
There are also intentions of administering vaccines to other counties in southern Colorado,
"We've also got the opportunity, and the desire, and the intent to take this vaccine and go to other counties in this area."
The fairgrounds site has been running for several weeks as one of the state’s six mass vaccination clinics. The new partnership with FEMA aims to increase the number of doses administered at the site from 1,750 to 3,000 each day, according to the governor’s office.
The FEMA pilot program will run for eight weeks and will be transitioned over from the state site in partnership with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
More than 100 Fort Carson soldiers are assisting with the operation, like Staff Sergeant Joshua Montelongo who is from Pueblo himself.
"Never once in my wildest dreams could you have told 20 year old me while I was joining the army that I'd be back here helping my local community with the pandemic," said Montelongo.
"Not only was I able to help out fellow soldiers and stuff like that within my platoon, I'm now helping local people that I grew up with."
Pueblo also launched a shuttle, beginning at the city's transit center downtown and driving people to the vaccination clinic at the State Fairgrounds.
Meet Kenneth,— FEMA Region 8 (@femaregion8) April 14, 2021
He took a @CityofPueblo Transit shuttle to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the Pueblo Community Vaccination Site at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.
Kenneth said it took less than half an hour. He has to wait for an observation period, but he'll be home in no time. pic.twitter.com/TESHtGfLLb
The governor’s office said along with the drive-up site at the fairgrounds, the plan is to increase the number of mobile vaccination clinics across southern Colorado as well.
Vaccinations can be scheduled through Centura Health by clicking here. The site at the fairgrounds will operate seven days a week starting at 7 a.m.
The state and FEMA say that they to announce the locations and hours for the mobile clinics in coming days, but said the static and mobile sites would hopefully be able to get more people in Alamosa, Bent, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers, Rio Grande and Saguache counties vaccinated.
“FEMA is pleased to continue supporting the State of Colorado in its efforts to ensure everyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine has access to one. This Pilot Site not only boosts vaccine supply with additional vaccine doses, it supports the larger mobile effort to reach across southern Colorado into rural communities,” said FEMA Region 8 Acting Administrator Nancy Dragani.
Data from the state show that some southern Colorado counties are among the leaders in total vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people, while others – particularly along the southeastern plains – are lagging behind.
“Our partnership with the Pueblo community, and leaders like Sheriff Kirk Taylor, Public Health Director Randy Evetts and Mayor Nick Gradisar, has been essential as we have worked to vaccinate folks at our State Community Vaccination site, and now as we make this important transition, we have an opportunity to get even more vaccines into arms, and help our state build back stronger. This partnership with FEMA is going to help more Coloradans get the protection they need even faster,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Monday. “…With this transition, we’ll be able to increase supply for the site, and reach more folks in many of our rural and agricultural communities, making it quick, easy, and convenient for them to get vaccinated.”