Vaccine clinics for Aspen-area kids set for mid-November
On the heels of a federal announcement Tuesday clearing the way for young kids to receive the Pfizer vaccine, local officials are planning a series of clinics at public schools in Pitkin County in the near future to provide those vaccinations.
The COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children ages 5 and older will begin the afternoon of Nov. 12 at Aspen High School and run most of the next week in Aspen and Basalt, according to a news release Wednesday from Pitkin County Public Health.
“I think we’re all really excited this day is finally here,” Jordana Sabella, Pitkin County public health director, said Wednesday.
Public health officials will host a virtual town hall Thursday during which parents and others can link in through Zoom and ask questions after a short presentation. The town hall will take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will feature Dr. Mary Harris, a pediatrician with Aspen Medical Practice, Dr. Catherine Bernard, a physician at Aspen Valley Hospital, Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance and Carly Senst, the county’s vaccine coordinator, as panelists.
Go to covid19.pitkincounty.com and click on “meeting information” link for Thursday’s Zoom link and information on how to log in to the meeting.
“The goal is to answer questions from folks in the community with questions,” Sabella said.
County public health officials are also exploring the possibility, which could occur in conjunction with Garfield and Eagle counties, of holding a similar town hall in Spanish in the upcoming weeks, she said.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for kids ages 5-11 last week, while the Centers for Disease Control recommended the shots, which are one-third the adult dose, on Tuesday evening.
Once Thursday’s town hall is finished, Pitkin County public health officials will open appointments for the upcoming children’s clinics, Sabella said.
The clinics will begin Nov. 12 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Aspen High School Gymnasium, with second doses available Dec. 3 for that group. They will continue Nov. 16 and 17 at the Basalt Elementary School parking lot from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Second doses for those recipients will be provided Dec. 8.
The next two will take place Nov. 18 and 19 at the Aspen Middle School parking lot from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, with second doses to be given Dec. 10.
Children 0-to-11 years old have made up 5.6% of all cases of COVID-19 in Pitkin County, while those 12-to-17 years old account for 4.7% of cases, according to the county’s online COVID-19 dashboard.
Colorado’s public health department reports the data a bit differently, but across the state children 0-to-9 years old have made up 5.9% of all cases, while those 10-to-19 have accounted for 12.7% of COVID-19 cases, according to the state’s COVID dashboard.
The current main concern across Colorado is the available number of ICU and acute care hospital beds, though Aspen Valley Hospital remains in good shape.
As of Monday, 91% of ICU beds in the state were occupied, according to Pitkin County’s data dashboard, with 88% of acute care beds full.
“Colorado is in the middle of record COVID-19 case transmission levels and close to record hospitalization rates largely coming from the unvaccinated minority in our state, who make up the vast majority of hospitalizations in all age groups,” Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday in an email statement. “As of today, we have 1,847 Coloradans hospitalized. That is the highest number we have seen in Colorado this year.”
About 80% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado are unvaccinated, said Dave Ressler, CEO at Aspen Valley Hospital.
Because of a higher than average vaccination rate in Pitkin County, however, AVH remained on “comfortable” status Wednesday with no COVID-19 patients admitted. AVH has been averaging one to two COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital in recent weeks, though it has been manageable, Ressler said.
“We have not been strained in that regard since mid-September,” he said. “The community has done its part to get vaccinated at a higher rate than the state. Clearly it’s vaccinations that are the key.”
The one area where AVH may feel the strain of the statewide ICU bed crunch is with its ability to transfer very sick patients in need of another level of care, he said.
“That is a major concern for us,” Ressler said. “Right now, it’s not affecting us. We have not had to keep a patient longer for lack of a transfer being available.”
But if a seriously ill patient on a ventilator, for example, who likely should be transferred to a lower altitude could not be, AVH doctors are able to manage that person’s condition, he said.
As of Tuesday, Pitkin County’s COVID-19 incidence rate was 141 per 100,000 residents, which was down from a two-week high of 237 on Oct. 23. The county had 26 total new cases in the previous seven days, including 24 residents and two out of county cases, according to the online dashboard.
While cases are higher now than this time last year, the decreasing numbers in Pitkin County show a better picture than the one projected statewide, Sabella said.
“Across the state, incidence rates are increasing,” she said. “But we are seeing a slight decline in Pitkin County. Part of that is our high vaccination rate and the current (indoor) mask order in place.”
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After a COVID-19 outbreak related to youth and adult hockey games in Aspen spiked local case numbers and incidence rates last week, the rate of transmission dropped significantly this week.