Fewer than 10% of La Plata and Archuleta county residents have received the vaccine as the COVID-19 community vaccination effort enters its sixth week.
San Juan Basin Public Health and community partners began ramping up efforts to vaccinate high-risk populations Saturday at the La Plata County Fairgrounds community vaccination clinic. Even with vaccinations, people still need to follow public health practices, SJBPH said in a news release Tuesday.
“We are so grateful vaccines are being administered to our most vulnerable community members,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, in the release. “However, vaccines don’t mean we can quickly return to normal. The pandemic is still dangerous, and lives are at stake.”
As of Monday, 6,351 vaccines had been administered to eligible residents in Archuleta and La Plata counties.
Statewide, almost 376,000 people had received the first dose of the two-shot sequence as of Monday, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The state’s vaccination efforts continue to focus on people ages 70 and older, health care workers, first responders, front-line essential workers (such as teachers), correctional workers, and long-term care facility staff members and residents.
With the vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds, more people ages 70 and older will be able to sign up and receive their vaccine doses.
But as the vaccination effort continues, the coronavirus continues to circulate in La Plata and Archuleta counties.
In La Plata County, the rate of new cases has slowed after a dramatic increase in November and December. The county reported 2,681 cumulative cases and 33 deaths among cases as of Monday.
Archuleta County, which also saw cases increase in November and December, reported 602 COVID-19 cases and 1 death among cases as of Monday.
SJBPH warned Tuesday that all community members – even those who have received the vaccine – can spread the virus.
With immunity from vaccines and natural immunity from getting COVID-19, people’s bodies acquire the tools needed to fight off the coronavirus. But even if someone has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19, it is still possible they may become infected and spread the virus to others, SJBPH said.
“Given these factors, SJBPH is urging everyone to continue to practice proven public health precautions until everyone can be vaccinated,” according to the news release.
It can take a few weeks to build immunity after vaccination, which means a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination, the release said.
People who have been vaccinated should follow quarantine guidance if they develop COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine. If people experience COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine, or at any time, they should contact their health care provider and get tested.
Quarantine is not necessary once a person has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and two weeks have passed after the second dose, the release said.
“As we wait our turn to get vaccinated, testing and public health precautions are critical to save lives, help our businesses stay open and get schools back to in-person learning,” Jollon said.
Experts don’t know how long natural immunity from getting COVID-19 lasts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about.
The CDC says that even those who have contracted COVID-19 should be vaccinated, and the agency plans to keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.
While SJBPH reminded community members to follow public health practices, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called on the federal government to send more vaccine doses to the state.
“Vaccines in Colorado are not sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf, and we need more vaccines immediately to protect our most vulnerable residents over the age of 70 and ultimately to end this horrible pandemic,” Polis said.
Colorado has received a total of 376,920 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday and 217,520 second doses (the combined total from both vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna.)
Colorado expects 80,290 first doses and 49,580 second doses of the two vaccines, combined, next week.
“It’s well-known by now that the Trump administration failed Americans in many aspects of the COVID vaccine rollout, and I continue to urge our federal partners and the new Biden administration in Washington to ramp up vaccine distribution right away,” Polis said.
According to Polis, Colorado is ready to immediately use three to four times as many vaccines as it currently receives each week.
“The sooner Colorado gets more vaccines, the quicker we can get them into arms, and the faster we can help our small businesses and economy build back stronger,” Polis said. “We’re ready and welcome renewed federal assistance to get the job done.”