Judson Haims: Vaccine phased rollout great, but no time to let down our guard

Judson Haims
Special to The Aspen Times

“Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

For anyone who has flown on a commercial airline, this phrase has been heard time and time again before departure. This rule makes sense and is important for ensuring survival. In the event of emergency, if you are not alert, capable and prepared, you are not going to be able to help others who may be less capable.

The same holds true with our current COVID-19 dilemma and the distribution of the vaccines. By providing our first responders and essential medical personnel with the proper PPEs and access to COVID-19 vaccines, we all will have greater assurance that they will be available to help our communities.

In a news conference last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said, “If we want to save lives, we need to prioritize based on who is the most vulnerable from this virus. The moral path for society to take is to protect those who are far and away more likely to lose their lives to the virus.”

Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) indicates that as of Nov. 15, there was an estimated 18,238 confirmed COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing facilities and 181,330 cases within all of the U.S. To put this into perspective, 13% of all cases occurred in nursing facilities. With over 100,000 deaths within U.S. long-term care facilities and over 850 here in Colorado, immediately vaccinating those within these facilities is paramount.

Following recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts who advises the CDC, Colorado will be distributing COVID-19 vaccines using a three-phased approach. This approach has been developed because it is expected that initially, there will be limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines. In Colorado, 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine started arriving Monday and 95,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine within the next couple weeks.

The first phase of the vaccine will occur in “Phase 1A” and “Phase 1B.” As per Gov. Polis, this early stage of distribution will be “the gateway to the end of the pandemic.” Phase 1A distribution will be to health care workers in addition to the most vulnerable within our communities — people in long-term care facilities.

Phase 1B will follow with distribution to “moderate-risk health care” providers. This group includes health care workers who have less exposure to COVID-19 patients; people working in home health, hospice and dental facilities; and first responders, including EMS personnel, police and deputies, correctional workers, dispatchers, funeral home workers and COVID-19 testing and response workers.

Phase 2 vaccinations will be provided to people age 65 and older who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, immunity diseases, cancer, chronic lung disease, and/or heart disease. Also included in Phase 2, will be essential workers who were not covered in Phases 1A or 1B. This group includes, people who have direct interactions with the public as part of their jobs, such as grocery store workers, school staff, child care staff, as well as people who work at meatpacking plants and on farms.

Phase 3 recipients will be for the general public who do not have high-risk conditions. While the distribution timeline may vary due to vaccine availability, it is anticipated that Phase 3 will occur by summer.

Each state is developing its own plan for vaccinating the public. In Colorado, we are following a well-planned process of vaccinations that prioritizes those who are most needy. The vaccination process is beginning this week

While the long-lasting health effect of the coronavirus may not be known for some time, we have begun the process for eradicating the rapid spread of the virus. All things considered, the coronavirus may very well be in our rear-view mirror pretty soon. However, until Phase 3 vaccinations occur, we all must participate in mitigating the spread and ensuring our economy moves forward.

Wear your mask, wash your hands and be considerate of others who may be more vulnerable to the virus than yourself.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, 970-328-5526.