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COVID-19 vaccines arrive

Health Department officials answer Fountain City Council questions

 

Last updated 12/23/2020 at 11:28am

Photo courtesy of El Paso County Public Health

An El Paso County Public Health immunization program manager unpacks the county's first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, consisting of 300 doses, on Tuesday. The Pfizer vaccine arrived early last week. Currently, vaccines are only available to frontline health workers.

El Paso County Public Health officials presented an overview of the new COVID-19 vaccine to the Fountain City Council last week, including details about how and when the product will be administered.

Colorado is currently in Phase 1A of the state's COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan, which means vaccines are only available for frontline health care workers at this time. Vaccines are not currently available to the general public, and El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) is not currently providing COVID-19 vaccines.

Other people in the first phase include long-term care facility residents and staff.

Phase 1B is next and includes general health care workers and first responders. Phase 2, planned for the spring, will include people over 65, those with certain medical conditions, workers who come into contact with the public regularly (grocery store and school employees, for instance), and other high-impact settings.

Phase 3, the general public, is anticipated to be available next summer.

In El Paso County, 20 workers at UC Memorial Hospital were the first to receive a dose on Dec. 14.

Janel McNair, an EPCPH emergency preparedness and response coordinator, told the council that Colorado received roughly 46,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which was the first to receive emergency use authorization by the FDA. Of those, about 6,700 went to this county.

This vaccine requires a second dose about three weeks after the first in order to be considered effective. McNair said people are considered "fully vaccinated" about one or two weeks after that second dose. This vaccine is designated for people 16 or older.

A week after the arrival of the Pfizer vaccines, the county has received a shipment of the Moderna vaccine, which arrived here on Tuesday.

There are 300 doses of those, and they will be distributed to Safeway for administration to health care workers in the top priority category - those who have prolonged contact with COVID-19 patients.

"It is exciting to see our frontline heroes getting timely access to the vaccine, which will help them be able to continue caring for their patients," said Dr. Robin Johnson, EPCPH medical director. "This is a monumental effort taking place in our community, and it is a testament to the strength of El Paso County's response."

McNair noted that federal agencies such as military bases receive their doses through a separate system and are not counted in the county's allocation.

At Fort Carson, for instance, the first shipment of Moderna vaccines this Monday. Evans Army Community Hospital reported it would begin offering vaccines to healthcare workers and emergency services personnel this week.

Vaccines will be offered to EACH patients, including military family members and retirees, after prioritized groups and individuals have been vaccinated in accordance with the DoD's Population Schema.

McNair said it is impossible to know how long these vaccines will be effective, but officials are anticipating needing to provide them in future years in a manner similar to flu vaccines due to changing strains.

She did say that these are voluntary, and for those without insurance they will be available at no cost. However, those with insurance should expect their insurance to be billed. Vaccines won't be available at private practices until the spring or summer.

All of the details discussed here and more are available online at:

elpasocountyhealth.org.

Other city business

In other business, the council voted to give city employees Christmas Eve off as a paid holiday. The council has discussed the matter in prior years, but generally decided against it due to the extra money it would cost, particularly for first responders who still have to work regardless.

This year, in light of all the challenges COVID-19 has brought, the council agreed that it was the least that could be done for city staff.

"They deserve some sort of Christmas bonus," Council Member Tamara Estes said.

The item was brought up by Mayor Gabe Ortega, and it applies only to this year. If the council wants to consider making it a permanent paid holiday, the matter will need to be brought forward again. City Manager Scott Trainor said if the council is leaning toward that, he will incorporate it into a revised Personnel Manual, which will be reviewed by the council early in 2021.

The council also voted to approve an agreement between Colorado Springs Mountain Metro Transit and Fountain Municipal Transit for shared territory to allow for service to the county's new public health facility on Hwy. 85-87 in Fountain. This includes a new stop for Fountain at Main Street and Marquette in Security.

The council also approved an agreement with Midstate Energy and the Colorado Energy Office to develop a performance contract project for the city.

 

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