PUEBLO — Pueblo's COVID-19 vaccine clinic for those 70 and older opened at the Pueblo Mall Monday, but lines were so long in the morning that officials began turning people away before the first vaccines were administered.
Ultimately, over 700 people were vaccinated for COVID-19 today, according to the Pueblo Health Department.
According to Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor, the team in charge of organizing these vaccination clinics is hopeful that the newly developed website will help the vaccination process run more smoothly in the future. The website is intended to be used as a waiting list for those 70 years and older to sign-up and get notified when and where they will be able to get vaccinated, aiming to shrink time wasted waiting in line.
However, the site has had complications so far, according to many of our viewers. The health department and public officials are reassuring News5 that they are working to correct any issues as quickly as possible.
“I can assure you we are working diligently the rest of this day, and into the week to get that remedied so that we can get this community vaccinated," Taylor said.
The Pueblo County Health Department said that clinics will be dependent on the amount of COVID-19 vaccines the department receives each week from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This clinic is not for individuals under the age of 70. Picture identification including birth date is required and those under 70 years of age will be turned away.
As of 7:53 a.m., the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office stated it has seen an overwhelming response and they are out of vaccines for today. The sheriff's office told News5 officials began marking vehicles to determine the availability of the vaccines, which is when it was determined a few minutes before 8 a.m. that they had reached its quota.
BREAKING - The vaccine clinic at the Pueblo Mall has reached its quota for today. Do not attempt to go to the clinic at this time. Avoid the area heavy traffic at this time.— PuebloCounty Sheriff (@PuebloCountySO) January 11, 2021
News5's Photographer Patrick Godfrey reported traffic was backed up onto northbound I-25 at the Highway 50/47 exit about 20 minutes before the clinic was set to officially open. People began lining up hours before the clinic opened, including the first person in line for the clinic who told News5 he and his wife arrived at 2:30 a.m.
Around 10:50 a.m., News5's Natalie Chuck spoke with a man who waited in line several hours before the anticipated open time.
VACCINE CLINC IN PUEBLO: Those that have been in line since 5:30am/6:00 am are finally getting to the front of the line!— Natalie Chuck KOAA (@NatalieChuck) January 11, 2021
70-year-old Guy Bowen tells me he doesn’t mind the wait, but wonders what it will be like when everyone needs their second dose! @KOAA pic.twitter.com/RpHbjIXfGV
Henry Reyes was the first person in line to get the vaccine and he arrived at 2:30 am. The clinic did not open until 9 a.m.
“I don't mind being a guinea pig," said Reyes, referring to the skepticism around the newly released vaccines. "Some people talk that way, but you know what, if I can save somebody else's life, so be it.”
One woman in line said it was "too bad" that people had to be turned away, but that "they'll just have to come back."
However, according to Reyes, getting the vaccine was "well worth the wait!"
Individuals who have received a vaccination in the previous 14 days or are currently experiencing a fever were not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and will have to return at a later date, the health department said. You can find additional information at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment website.
In preparation for this clinic's opening, the department held a trial clinic Friday.
“The pilot clinic ran smoothly today, and we continue to improve our processes with every clinic we provide,” stated public health director Randy Evetts. “Moderna vaccine was provided to 175 people 70 years of age and older. This clinic will help guide how we will give the vaccine to the community moving forward.”
The Pueblo Health Department also launched a vaccine notification system for Puebloans 70 and older to alert them of vaccination clinics. The county is one of many in the state working through Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan placed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which does not include older adults.
Many Coloradans who are above 70 years old have been expecting to be able to receive the vaccine after Gov. Jared Polis announced last week they would be eligible, however it was dependent on when frontline healthcare workers had received their vaccines and when supplies were available. Now, the Pueblo health officials are offering an online form where those 70 years and older can submit contact information to receive a vaccine notification. The form it is not designed to be a form to sign up for an appointment or list to receive the vaccine.
News5 spoke to Randy Evetts, Pueblo Public Health director, who wanted to clarify any misunderstanding. He said Pueblo County is still working to vaccinate first-priority frontline medical workers. There are not enough doses yet available to start vaccinations for senior citizens.
“The vaccine manufactures are making it as fast they can, but there's a limit to that supply chain so we respond based on the vaccine we receive that week,” Evetts said.
Pueblo County held a presser today at 2:30 p.m. stating they were able to vaccinate those 70 years and older today, but still had to turn some away. They began vaccinating in small groups, but are now pushing to vaccinate in larger groups. Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said their goal is to vaccinate 1,000 people per day. This morning, they were able to vaccinate about 700 people, which is twice as many as any other site in Pueblo.
"We are committed to vaccinating everyone 70 and above, and we will do that before we move on to other groups," Pueblo County Public Health Director Randy Evetts said.
Right now, the distribution process is based on population, which is why Pueblo is not receiving as many vaccines as other cities in Colorado or across the country. There are currently 23,000 Puebloans in the 70 plus age range.
PuebloVacNow.com is now available to register to be put on the list for those 70 and older, or you can call 719-583-4444.
Evetts also said they are working to develop mobile clinics for those that may not be able to reach this particular site.
Mayor Nick Gradisar also spoke today on the distribution of vaccinations in Pueblo. He explained that those 70 and older will be put on a list and called when it's time for their appointment.
Mayor Gradisar said he believes the U.S. has handled the distribution of the vaccinations across the country the worst of any country. He does not want this to be a deterrent; he says it will just take some time, and urges everyone to remain patient.
"Unfortunately, people are going to have to wait their turn, but that is why we are going to this system," said Mayor Gradisar.
They urge everyone not to show up, but to sign up.
Colorado's 70 and older citizens eligible, but COVID-19 vaccine not yet available
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