Why are two counties getting twice their share of vaccines?

Coronavirus

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DENVER (KDVR) — Residents of Denver and Adams counties have a good thing going on. Alongside a few other counties, they’re getting twice their share of Colorado’s vaccines. The state health department and Adams County say certain counties order more vaccines because they have larger hospital presences.

Data Desk analyzed a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) list of how many vaccines have been ordered to each Colorado county as of morning Feb. 9.

This does not necessarily mean each county has this many vaccines on hand, but rather that they have ordered them. These numbers also do not mean counties have actually administered this many vaccines. If they are any guide, they represent roughly twice the number of arms poked.

Most counties have ordered roughly the same percentage of Colorado-bound vaccines as their population warrants. Clear Creek County, for instance, has 0.17% of Colorado’s population and has so far ordered 0.16% of Colorado’s vaccines. For most counties, there is a small, but relatively insignificant, difference between population percentage and vaccine distribution.

A handful of Front Range counties, however, have ordered significantly greater or fewer amounts of vaccines than their population.

There are 10 counties with disparities of more than 1% either over or under – that is, they’ve received a percentage of vaccines that is either 1% greater or less than their percentage of the state’s population: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, Eagle, Jefferson, La Plata, Pueblo and Weld counties.

Adams County has 9% of the state’s population but it’s ordered 19% of the vaccines. Denver, at 12.5% of the state’s population, has ordered 19% of the vaccines, and Pueblo County, which has 3% of the state’s population, has ordered 6% of the state’s vaccines.

Arapahoe County, on the other hand, has 11% of the state’s population but has only ordered 6% of the vaccines.

Data Desk asked CDPHE for an explanation about these discrepancies Tuesday afternoon. The department responded late Tuesday evening with this:

“In the first several weeks Colorado’s allocation process was primarily focused on logistics and provider readiness to store and distribute vaccine.

For example some had the refrigeration needed for the Pfizer vaccine and some didn’t. In addition, some of this data is reliant on where large providers are and who they serve. 

For example, UCHealth in Adams county received vaccines that they administer to people from around the metro area and they distribute to their other locations around the state from that hub.

As providers and vaccine supplies have increased, Colorado transitioned to a standard allocation that takes into account county population estimates.” 

CDPHE spokesperson

The Adams County communications director, Christa Bruning, confirmed the same concept. As a county with many medical facilities, it serves as a kind of distribution hub and therefore orders more vaccines than other counties.

“Adams County’s request for additional vaccines is based on the number of healthcare and first responders working in the county who must be vaccinated to continue supporting the fight against COVID-19,” wrote Bruning. “In addition, our capacity to distribute the vaccine to a large number of people, both in and outside of Adams County, from our multiple healthcare facilities has driven the requested amount of vaccine. We have also noticed an influx of people from across the metro area coming to any location possible to get a vaccination, which increases the amount of vaccine needed to meet the demand in Adams County and the metro area. Often, large shipments of vaccine that go to a specific hospital within a county, do not necessarily stay in the original county and may be transferred to facilities in other counties.”

Despite disparities, Colorado’s vaccine program is moving at a quick clip. Looking at these records and the most recent (2019) U.S. Census Bureau data, several counties have almost received enough vaccines to give each resident one dose – and in the case of San Juan County it has actually surpassed this number. However it’s important to keep in mind that the two approved vaccines each require two doses.

Sedgwick, Mineral, Hinsdale and Kiowa counties have each ordered more than 0.7 vaccines per county resident. San Juan County has received 1.1 vaccines for every resident.

Also at the top of the list are Alamosa, Phillips and Cheyenne counties. These counties are among some of the most important to vaccinate quickly, considering they have some of the highest percentages of 65+ Coloradans in the state.

Still, the percentages of 65+ Coloradans is tiny in those sparsely populated rural districts. By sheer number, more 65+ Coloradans live along the Front Range. It’s these counties that will prove more challenging.

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