Polis: 10 Percent of Coloradans Won't Ever Get Vaccinated

Governor Jared Polis during an April 16 visit to the Kress Cinema & Lounge in Greeley.
Governor Jared Polis during an April 16 visit to the Kress Cinema & Lounge in Greeley.
The theme of Governor Jared Polis's April 20 press conference about the state's ongoing battle against COVID-19 was the increasing availability of vaccine and the need for everyone to get inoculated as soon as possible in order to fend off the latest wave of infections and hospitalizations.

By Polis's estimate, about 50 percent of state residents over the age of sixteen have received at least one shot; he believes these people represent those who aggressively sought out vaccination. Of the remaining half of the eligible Coloradans, he thinks about 10 percent will absolutely refuse to receive a dose, while the other 40 percent aren't opposed to doing so but have delayed taking action for assorted reasons, including simple procrastination.

"For those of you who've been putting it off, now's the time to get it," Polis said. "If you're 24 and healthy, now it's your turn."

At the outset of his remarks, Polis noted that the latest daily stats for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are at a worrisomely high level: 1,963 positive tests and 553 people currently hospitalized for the novel coronavirus, representing the highest numbers since late January. Moreover, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who joined Polis at the event, pointed out that certain areas of the state are seeing significant surges of the virus; she singled out the southern and southwestern sections.

Nonetheless, Polis didn't call out counties with spiking case counts that have loosened restrictions since the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's dial dashboard transitioned from compulsory to advisory on April 16, including those that would previously have been rated at Level Red — more than a third of the state's counties. Instead, he characterized vaccinations as the best way to end the pandemic. "This is very much a race against the clock," he maintained.

To that end, Polis revealed that four of the state's mass vaccination sites — Ball Arena in Denver, The Ranch near Loveland, the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo and the Grand Junction Convention Center in Mesa County — are now accepting drive-ups or walk-ins during regular operating hours, with no appointments necessary. He predicted that more sites will soon be offering such services and expressed hope that by mid-May, individuals can simply stop by their local pharmacy and get a vaccination when it's most convenient for them.

To reinforce this message, Herlihy offered details about the effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing infections. Efficacy levels measured at the state level are in the 93-95 percent range — similar to those found during clinical trials. Moreover, so-called "breakthrough" cases (the term used for people who've become infected after being fully vaccinated accounts for approximately one per 7,000 individuals, she noted; in contrast, the rate for unvaccinated Coloradans is one in 387.

As for people who have said that they plan to get the vaccine but haven't yet taken the steps necessary to make it happen, Polis commiserated. "Nobody likes to get pricked," he said. But he stressed that those who sign up for a jab will be able to return to normal life much more quickly than those who don't — and that includes anyone under the delusion that having survived a case of COVID-19 is protection for the long haul. In truth, he pointed out, immunity fades over time to the degree that people who had the disease six or nine months ago are still quite vulnerable to catching it again. He summed up his reaction to survivors skipping the shots in two words: "Bad decision."

Many of the questions posed by journalists pertained to the decision to yank vaccination privileges from the Dr. Moma Health and Wellness clinic in El Paso County, which was found to have improperly stored vaccine; as a result, around 1,500 people will have to start the vaccination process over. Polis made it clear that inspectors are on the job, following up reports of concerns and even doing spot checks in an effort to prevent such problems from occurring again.

In addition, Polis predicted that vaccinations will be approved for children between the ages of twelve and fifteen before the fall 2021 school session gets under way; he thinks those under eleven may have to wait until later in 2021 or early 2022 to get their chance. Until then, the state will do everything it can to make sure the 40 percent of unvaccinated Coloradans who are open to inoculations bare their arms, in order to protect the rest of us from the 10 percent dead set against it.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts