Colorado opens up COVID booster shots to all 18-older, per executive order
Gov. Polis declares all of Colorado at high risk of infection
DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday allowing all residents 18 and older access to COVID-19 booster shots by declaring all of the state at high coronavirus infection risk — expanding the administration of boosters currently restricted under federal Food and Drug Administration rules.
The Democratic governor took the step as Colorado experiences a surge in delta variant coronavirus infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals and health care workers.
Polis’ order declares all of Colorado at high risk of infection.
Current FDA rules allow booster shots for those 18 and over who are at high risk of exposure to the virus, people 65 and older and adults with special medical conditions.
By declaring a universal risk of exposure, Polis’ order eases the federal restrictions.
“Because disease spread is so significant across Colorado, all Coloradans who are 18 years of age and older are at high risk and qualify for a booster shot,” Polis said in his order.
Requests for comment from the FDA and from Polis’ office were not immediately returned on Thursday, a federal and state holiday.
Polis’ order allows vaccine providers to provide booster shots to those who received the double-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago.
People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which hasn’t proven as effective as its competitors, can get a booster at least two months later. Anyone eligible for a booster doesn’t have to stick with their initial vaccination type and can get a different company’s vaccine.
Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older, a step that comes amid concern about increased spread of the coronavirus with holiday travel and gatherings.
The Biden administration had originally envisioned boosters for all adults, but FDA scientific advisers rejected extra Pfizer doses for everyone. The panel wasn’t convinced that young healthy people needed another dose and instead recommended boosters just for certain groups.
Polis, a Democrat, has emphasized vaccinations as a top tool in fighting the latest surge that officials worry could overwhelm the state’s hospital capacity by the end of the year.
About 1,426 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Colorado, and state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Wednesday the state could hit 2,258 COVID-19 hospitalizations by Jan. 1, a record high for the pandemic.
The delta variant surge combined with hospital staffing shortages has left about 720 total beds available in intensive care and acute care units, according to the Colorado Hospital Association. Some 17% of all beds are occupied by those with COVID or suspected of having it, the state health department said.
Polis put the number of available hospital beds at 623 in his order, and he has repeatedly emphasized that the unvaccinated — 28% of state residents, according to state data — account for 80% those hospitalized. Officials said many of the remainder are immunocompromised or older patients more susceptible to the virus.
“With an estimated 1 in 67 Coloradans infected, it is likely that nearly all Coloradans are exposed to COVID-19 where they live or work,” the governor said in his order. “I declare the entire State of Colorado high risk for exposure or transmission of COVID19 and therefore eligible for the safe and highly effective COVID-19 booster shot.”
Polis a day before issuing the booster shot order told a coronavirus task force he was working with health care providers to add as many as 500 beds by adjusting staffing, repurposing hospital units and making other changes in existing facilities.
State officials are also trying working to recruit retired and out-of-state nurses and providers, Polis said. The state this week issued a staffing rule allowing licensed health care providers more flexibility in tending to the sick.
Colorado’s 7-day positivity rate — the percentage of people testing positive for the virus out of all who have been tested — reached 9.93% as of Wednesday.
That means for every 100 people tested over that week, nearly 10 of them tested positive. Last year, the highest 7-day positivity rate was 11.21% as of Nov. 20.
More than 700,000 Colorado residents have been infected during the pandemic, and 8,814 people have died.