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Fremont County leaders frustrated with unexpected cancellation of mobile vaccine clinic

MGN

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Fremont County officials are frustrated with what they describe as a lack of clear communication from state health leaders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) canceled a mobile vaccination clinic that was originally supposed to be in Fremont County from August 31 to September 2. The Fremont County health director found out four days before the bus was scheduled to be there that the clinic was being moved out of the county.

“They informed that it was being rerouted to Colorado Springs, Aurora, and Thorton, which was a complete shock to me considering the amount of COVID-19 providers that are in those counties already," Fremont County Public Health Director Kayla Marler told 13 Investigates.

Marler is concerned because there has been limited availability of the Pzifer vaccine in Fremont County and the mobile bus clinic was where many residents expected to get their second Pfizer dose. One vaccine provider received more Pzifer vaccines Wednesday and will be able to help with those second doses, according to Marler.

CDPHE officials tell 13 Investigates the decision to move the clinic out of Fremont County was in an effort to vaccinate more Coloradans in other areas. Fremont County Public Health Director Kayla Marler says when she asked why state health leaders canceled the clinic days before they told her it was related to the Colorado Comeback Cash gift card incentive program.

“The justification I received from CDPHE was that they are trying to push their gift card program and needed to get their gift cards out before they are going to expire," Marler said.

When 13 Investigates reached out to CDPHE for clarification on Marler's statement, CDPHE sent an identical response to the question we asked earlier, not answering if the reason for the change was related to the gift cards.

State health leaders said during 16 vaccine bus stops, 22 people are utilizing the mobile vaccine clinic when it's in Fremont County, compared to 300 a day in other areas of the state.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Dwayne McFall says with a population of less than 50,000, the increased vaccination rate from the mobile clinic was impactful.

“It’s a big chunk for us out here in rural Colorado. It makes a big difference when a valuable resource is pulled away from the state," McFall said.

He is frustrated that a tool to help his community fight the spread of COVID-19 was taken away after it was promoted to residents.

“CDPHE has no problem ridiculing rural Colorado of lower vaccination rates but here they’re pulling the resource that they have to help increase those vaccinations," McFall said.

A little over five out of 10 Fremont County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to state health data.

After Fremont County raised concerns, CDPHE tells 13 Investigates it has now rescheduled mobile vaccination clinics for September 2, 7, 24, and 25.

CDPHE says it is reaching out to Fremont County Public Health to make sure they are aligned and that the county's questions are being answered.

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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