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News 5 Investigates: Will El Paso County ever open a mass public COVID-19 vaccine site?

Health leaders concerned one centralized vaccine clinic creates too many barriers
COVID-19 Vaccine
Posted at 11:38 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 10:00:23-05

EL PASO COUNTY — For several weeks, Pueblo County's public COVID-19 vaccine clinic has been up and running at the Pueblo Mall.

So far, El Paso County Public Health has not followed suit and you asked us to look into what happened.

"We are maybe not as visible as a mobile clinic, but we've certainly had efforts that are ongoing and robust," Dr. Robin Johnson, El Paso County's medical director said.

Johnson says instead of having one mass clinic, El Paso County Public Health has partnered with Centura Health, a handful of primary care practioners and UCHealth to handle vaccinations.

"One of the advantages of using our local health infrastructure is that it helps us overcome some of the geographical barriers," DeAnn Ryberg, deputy director for the El paso County Health Department said.

While Pueblo County has been able to operate one public COVID-19 mass distribution center, it's important to note that this county only has a population of 168,000.

El Paso County is currently home to more than 720,000 residents.

If you saw the lines early on at the Pueblo Mall's vaccine site, imagine how chaotic it could be to only have one public centralized vaccine clinic in Colorado Springs.

El Paso County Public Health believes that having multiple partner agencies distribute vaccines also gives people with mobility impairments the ability to locate a clinic closest to them.

"It's our hope that it reduces transport barriers people may encounter if all of our efforts were focused on a single location," Ryberg said.

It's no secret that vaccines are in short supply and high demand.

While opening up more clinics can improve access for residents throughout the city and county, it does not make additional vaccines arrive any quicker.

Frustrated patients are telling us they've put their names multiple wait lists and cannot get an appointment scheduled.

News 5 asked El Paso County Public Health whether it encourages or discourages people from calling multiple providers and putting their name on several different wait lists.

"I don't know that there is a particular positive or negative to that," Johnson said. "You may expedite your access by having signed up for different opportunities to get the vaccine. I think the problem comes in that it's not necessarily easy to cancel them. That creates some increased burden on those organizations to then sort through who has already gotten the vaccine and who still needs the vaccine."

Instead of putting your name on multiple wait lists, Johnson says you should always try to first get an appointment with your primary care physician's office.

If their appointment calendar is full and there's already hundreds of people on a wait list ahead of you, then it may be worth calling around to other providers.

As a courtesy, if you get the vaccine somewhere else, you should call and cancel your place in line for every provider's list you were placed on.

El Paso County Public Health has released a list of telephone numbers for current COVID-19 vaccination providers:

COVID Resources
List of COVID-19 Vaccine Providers

Eligible candidates to receive the vaccine can also call 2-1-1 for vaccine help or text "Vaccine" to 667873.

For more information on the county's vaccination plan, click here.

Upcoming mass COVID distribution clinic:

Centura Health announced it will host a private mass vaccination clinic at the Broadmoor World Arena on Feb. 13-14.

We're told the vaccine clinic will administer 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to eligible candidates. The event is for invited guests only.

"Centura Health is working closely with El Paso County Public Health and other community groups to include underserved and disadvantaged communities, in addition to educators, existing patients and those who signed up through the Centura vaccine form," the hospital chain said in a press release.

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