Public Health Emerging Issues
March 3, 2021
COVID-19 VACCINATION UPDATE
- Johnson & Johnson announced on Saturday, February 27 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
- Clinical trials show Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine reduces severe illness by approximately 85% even with a lower overall efficacy (66%) than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
- Colorado expects to receive its first allotment (45,500 doses) of the single-dose vaccine this week.
- While continuing to prioritize older adults and previously eligible groups, on Friday, March 5, Colorado will move into Phase 1B.3 of vaccine distribution. This phase was recently updated to include:
- People age 60 or older.
- Frontline essential agricultural and grocery store workers.
- People age 16-59 with two or more high-risk conditions.
- A vaccine interest form is available on the MCPH website and has been updated to include an option for those 60 or older as well as industries who qualify by the current phase.
- Phase 1B.4 has been added, and the general public now qualifies in Phase 2. View the full distribution plan here.
- As of the week ending February 26, 24,286 first doses and 9,425 second doses have been administered in Mesa County for a total of 33,711 doses.
- A Vaccine Dashboard is updated weekly on the Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) website.
- Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues operating a Point of Distribution (POD) mass vaccination site by appointment only at the Grand Junction Convention Center, located at 159 Main Street.
- If you are unable to complete the interest form online call 970-248-6900. Press Option 7, and leave a callback number. Individuals who are more comfortable communicating in Spanish should call the Mesa County Public Health Spanish-language line at 970-255-3700.
The State of Colorado has set up a Vaccine Hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with answers to general vaccine questions available in multiple languages. Call 1-877-CO-VAX-CO (1-877-268-2926).
With increased vaccine supply, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) and our local hospital partners have significantly increased the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered each week in our community.
The mass vaccination site at the Grand Junction Convention Center has increased operations. In the past two weeks, the number of appointments grew from an average of 500 appointments per day to 800 per day. Next week, we expect up to 1,000 individuals will be vaccinated each day (Tuesday-Friday) by appointment; this includes both first and second doses.
“With vaccine shipments now coming more consistently, we’ve been able to really gain ground on our waitlist,” said Jeff Kuhr, Executive Director of Mesa County Public Health. “We are on track to reach our community goal of vaccinating individuals age 70 and older by the end of February. A short time ago, I was concerned that wasn’t going to happen,” added Kuhr.
The mass vaccination site at the Grand Junction Convention Center, serving mainly individuals, is running in tandem with clinics at area hospitals, focusing on employer groups such as educators. On February 8, PreK-12 grade educators became eligible to receive vaccine.
Offering vaccine to this critical workforce is essential to ensure in-person learning is protected. Hospital partners stepped up and scheduled vaccine clinics for educators. As of Friday, February 12, all School District 51 educators and eligible staff will have been offered an appointment.
Wait times to be contacted have been dramatically reduced; we are currently contacting individuals who filled out the form approximately two weeks ago. A new feature on our website allows people to check the status of their submission.
With the increased supply, MCPH estimates eligible individuals age 65-69 who signed up when their phase became eligible (February 8) will begin receiving appointment scheduling information within the next three weeks.
Additional providers, including pharmacies and community health clinics, are also receiving shipments of vaccine. A list of providers can be found on our website with contact information.
After living in a pandemic dominated country for nearly a year, Mesa County finally received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December. The ‘’liquid gold” in tiny vials, as it’s been described was immediately administered to the county’s first priority group by Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) and area hospitals. In early January, when the mass vaccination point of dispensing (POD) location opened, the need for additional staff was essential.
Through the course of the pandemic, health care professionals and other essential workers have been dubbed coronavirus heroes. Since the COVID-19 vaccines emerged, another hero has been added to the list: volunteers.
“We could never expand to a level that is significant to our community without the volunteers,” said Jeff Kuhr, Executive Director of Mesa County Public Health. Though MCPH has hired several temporary employees in the past year to respond to the pandemic, staffing up to the necessary level for mass vaccine distribution would be impossible to both establish and maintain.
So far, the phased vaccine distribution rollout has been sluggish in Mesa County due to high demand and short supply of vaccine across the nation, but the need for volunteers never goes away. “We just hope that any day, or any week, we get a huge surge of vaccine coming in, and at that point, we will be prepared, thanks to our volunteers,” said Kuhr.
Grand Valley residents have already stepped up and offered to volunteer their time.
“The community interest in making this vaccination effort a success is gratifying,” said Sue Kiser, the Volunteer Coordinator at Mesa County Public Health’s mass COVID-19 vaccination site.
Since the site opened, about 450 residents have signed up to help in positions from vaccinators to greeters. “They just want to be part of the solution,” said Kiser.
Diana Nicholes, a volunteer at the vaccination site echoed Kiser, saying, “It’s important, it’s just so important.”
After retiring as a school teacher, Nicholes found it easy to give her time to benefit our community. In addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment, she’s happy to volunteer because it allows her to socialize during an otherwise isolating time. “It’s so nice to get out of the house, it’s actually been fun.”
Even with the generosity so far, more help is needed. If you are able to donate time to the vaccine efforts in Mesa County, visit health.mesacounty.us and click the “Volunteer To Help” button.
Through testing at the Mesa County Fairgrounds COVID-19 community sampling site, a case of the B.1.1.7 variant has been identified in a female Mesa County resident in her 30s with no travel history. The woman reported no symptoms (asymptomatic) and was not hospitalized.
The case was confirmed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment through laboratory testing on February 4.
Mesa County Public Health completed a case investigation with this individual and advised her of isolation instructions and quarantine measures for her close contacts. Quarantine guidance for those exposed to the variant is more strict, to minimize transmission and other potential exposures.
Statewide, COVID-19 variant cases remain relatively low. The case added from Mesa County today is one of 23 new reported variant cases, bringing the total to 39.
Colorado was the first state to have a confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant in the United States; that case was in a resident of Elbert County on December 29.
This strain, sometimes referred to as the UK variant, appears to spread more easily and quickly than more common strains that cause COVID-19. There is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of hospitalization or death than previous circulating strains.
Scientists believe that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be effective in providing immunity against these new variants.
Infections due to the new variants seem to have the same symptoms as the original COVID-19 strain. They can also cause asymptomatic infection, as was reported with this individual. Contacts of cases with any of the new COVID-19 variants need to quarantine for a full 14 days.
The most effective ways to prevent the spread of any COVID-19 virus remain the same: Wearing a mask in public, maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, limiting contact with anyone outside your household, washing your hands often, and staying home when you are sick.
Continue to stay up to date by visiting health.mesacounty.us.