This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on December 16, 2020.
This is a historic week for our nation. For the past 10 months, everyone has been fighting a war against an invisible enemy — an enemy that does not discriminate and attacks the most vulnerable of our population without hesitation.
On Wednesday, we took the first step toward gaining the upper hand and winning the war. At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the first resident of Eagle County received the COVID-19 vaccine at Vail Health. It was then followed by the vaccination of 220 additional Vail Health front-line staff and other local health care workers, such as Mountain Family Health.
Per the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Phase I of vaccine allocation is focused on those in long-term care facilities and health care workers. The initial priority among our Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical employees is those health care workers with the most contact with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, including patient care unit, intensive care unit, emergency department, and those working in our COVID-19 testing and care sites. All vaccinations are voluntary for our staff, however highly encouraged.
We are proud that Vail Health is one of eight regional distribution storage facilities in Colorado for the vaccine. We have ample ultra-cold storage capacity and are honored to be able to help our neighboring mountain communities and health care systems.
We are administering the vaccination per CDPHE guidance. As such, we have to report every vaccination administered within 24 hours of administration. This will help ensure across the state and country that the vaccines go to those who are the highest risk groups.
Immediately, there will not be enough vaccines to meet demands, and according to the CDPHE’s phased approach, the more vulnerable in the general public will begin receiving the vaccine in spring 2021 and the entire general public will not receive a vaccine until summer 2021.
This first vaccine has been created by Pfizer and requires two doses, separated by 21 days. During this time and two weeks after the second dose, a total of five weeks, a person is not considered protected.
This is normal, as it takes time for the body to make antibodies. We do not yet know the long-term protectivity of the vaccine, i.e how long a person is protected. It is possible that we will have to get additional doses, similar to annual flu vaccinations.
Similar to what we’ve been able to do with COVID-19 testing, Vail Health is prepared to collaborate with the state, Eagle County, and other providers on the successful vaccination of our community.
While there is great hope in the vaccine, people must remain diligent this winter by socially distancing when they can and wearing a mask when they are around others. This war is not over, but we are one battle closer to victory, and we are hopeful for what is to come.
Will Cook is the president and CEO of Vail Health.