Cortez Integrated Healthcare inoculated 240 people age 70 or older Saturday with the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
Recipients of the vaccine fell under the state’s Phase 1B designation for the distribution of vaccines, which includes two levels. The first is composed of EMS staff, firefighters, police, pandemic response personnel, correctional workers, funeral service workers and people age 70 and older.
Axis Health System, the medical provider administering the shots, recently received them from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Wayne Martin, 82, who lives just outside of Pleasant View, has been playing it safe since the pandemic began.
“I haven’t been anywhere. I live out there in the country, and I just stay out there,” Martin said as he waited outside of Cortez Integrated Healthcare. “So I’m ready.”
Dr. Luke Casias, Chief Medical Officer for Axis Health System, was one of six people on site personally administering the inoculations.
Casias has been providing treatment to COVID-19 patients, both virtually and in person, since the outbreak struck early last year. He feels that with the vaccine, health care workers can finally go on the offensive.
“We’re actually at the point where we can turn the tide on COVID,” Casias said. “It’s no longer defensive posturing by taking care of those who already have it. The biggest thing we’re giving right now is hope. Hope to the communities, to the individuals.”
Casias told The Journal that while the vaccine doesn’t completely protect everybody, people can feel a bit more secure about being on the pathway to seeing their friends and loved ones after receiving their second shot.
When asked about those who are skeptical about taking the vaccine, Casias emphasized that those concerns are unfounded.
“The science behind the vaccine is very, very sound,” Casias said. “There’s a lot of misperception that this type of vaccine is going to distort your DNA or put something in there that people don’t want in their DNA.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mRNA vaccines, like the Moderna shot, do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. Also, mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.
“They’re very safe, and they’re highly effective,” Casias said.
According to Haley Saunders, Axis Health System’s director of public relations and development, there is no set date for the next vaccine clinic. The health care provider intends to do another clinic as soon as it receives its next batch of vaccines from CDPHE.
“We’re taking whatever directive the state gives us and rolling with it,” Saunders said.
Montezuma County Health Department plans to release new data regarding the county’s vaccination campaign on Monday, according to county public information officer Vicki Shaffer.
After the 70-and-older vaccinations are complete, health workers will move on to the second level of Phase 1B vaccinations. That group includes workers in education, food and agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. Postal Service, public transit, public health, human services workers and service providers for the homeless. Essential officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government also are in the category, along with essential frontline journalists.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has stated that he hopes the state can move on to this next cohort by the end of February. Shaffer told The Journal that she hopes Montezuma County will get to that point even sooner.
“I feel just like I did when I came in, Mancos resident Michael Helms said. “I’m glad to get it. I’m happy to get it.”