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State explains vaccine allocation process after complaints from El Paso Co. leaders

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is now explaining its vaccine allocation formula after demands for transparency and complaints of a vaccine shortfall by elected leaders in El Paso County.

Earlier this week, Congressman Doug Lamborn wrote a letter to Governor Jared Polis asking for the discrepancy to be addressed immediately, claiming El Paso County has been shorted as much as 26,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.

We first reported that El Paso County was facing a discrepancy in vaccine distribution when compared to counties of a similar size back in February. Since then, numerous officials have spoken out asking for answers.

Last Tuesday, Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez called for an investigation of the state health department to determine why the county continues to get fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than they should be based on population.

State health officials say they offered 13,000 doses to El Paso County last week but the county only accepted 6,700 of that offer because that is what they were able to use quickly.

"Last week, we were able to accept 6,700 of the 13,000 doses that were offered on short notice to pivot quickly to use the newly authorized Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine as part of simultaneous clinics—including second-dose clinics—that had previously been scheduled," El Paso County Public Health spokesperson Michelle Hewwit said.

CDPHE says El Paso County has received 177,890 vaccine doses since March 7, accounting for 98.2% of its share of the state's population. State health officials say those figures don't include the 34,000 doses distributed directly through the federal government for veterans and military members.

If you add up the number of doses El Paso County received from both the state and federal government, it accounts for 99.7% of its proportional vaccine share, according to CDPHE.

The state says the difference in allocation previously is related to the initial distribution of vaccines for critical health care workers. CDPHE told KRDO that labor statistics show that there are 2,100 fewer hospital workers in El Paso County than compared to Denver County.

CDPHE officials released this statement outlining how they determine where to send vaccines in the state every week.

"We are committed to distributing the vaccine efficiently and equitably across Colorado. As enrolled COVID vaccine providers and vaccine supplies have increased, Colorado uses a standard allocation method that takes into account the following factors:

  • The county’s population.
  • Average weekly throughput at the health system, provider, and local public health agency level. (How quickly the providers are able to administer doses as they receive them, calculated as an average weekly percent of doses administered in the same week doses are received.)
  • Provider-identified maximum weekly throughput. (The maximum number of doses providers have told us they can administer per week.)
  • Number and size of community vaccination sites and events. If a community has planned a vaccination site, we try to meet the need for that site."

El Paso County Public Health says they are continuing to work with the state on vaccine allocation.

"El Paso County has been persistent in working with the state to increase vaccine supply to our county, and we are heading in a positive direction," Michelle Hewitt said. "We are proactively pursuing multiple initiatives to further expand our capacity to quickly and effectively administer vaccines, including working with the state on a mass vaccination site and ramping up staffing and capacity at several other high-volume community sites, including El Paso County Public Health South."

Article Topic Follows: Local News

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Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is the Assistant News Director for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.


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