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Worst Colorado Counties for COVID-19 Vaccination Rates and Why

The Heritage Center in Crowley County, which currently has Colorado's lowest vaccination percentage.
The Heritage Center in Crowley County, which currently has Colorado's lowest vaccination percentage.
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As in many parts of the country, the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in Colorado has slowed considerably in recent weeks — a particularly worrisome trend given current data showing that the state is a national hot spot second only to Michigan when measured by per capita hospitalizations.

Recent reports have suggested that vaccine hesitancy is particularly acute in politically conservative rural areas. But the situation in Colorado is more complicated than that. The latest numbers show that the low vaccination rates are generally in counties with right-wing voting records and small populations. But the differences in rural-versus-urban vaccinations are relatively modest, in part because of disappointing inoculation stats in larger GOP-loving spots, too.

As a result, vaccination rates are disappointing across the board in Colorado, compounding fears that the state (and the nation) may never reach the sort of herd immunity that will allow life to return to normal.

In an April 27 piece, we looked at COVID-19 safety issues, including vaccination rates, in Colorado counties that chose not to institute local public-health measures after the state's coronavirus dial system moved from compulsory to advisory on April 16. Of the 24 counties that took this tack, 22 of them supported Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

How many of these counties are rural? The Colorado Rural Health Center divides the state's counties into not two but three categories: urban, rural and frontier, with that last category comprising the most wide-open spaces. By the CRHC's measure, Colorado's 64 counties break down to 17 considered urban, 24 rural and 23 frontier.

The percentage of the eligible population immunized with one or more doses of any COVID-19 vaccine as of May 4 is actually impressive in several counties deemed rural, led by those with a large ski industry: 72.9 percent in Summit, 70.9 percent in Eagle, 69.1 percent in Routt. A batch of frontier counties are also performing strongly, as evidenced by the 79.2 percent stat for San Miguel, 74.2 percent for San Juan and 73.5 percent for Mineral. Meanwhile, only one urban county in the state had crossed the 70 percent threshold: Broomfield, at 70.7 percent.

Far more counties in each category are doing worse. Bent's 18.7 percent is the worst among frontier counties; Crowley is at the bottom of the rural division, with a 17.2 percent vaccination rate; and Elbert's 29 percent is the nadir for urban counties. And vaccination rates in the 24 counties without local public-health orders have barely moved in the past week: In Kiowa County, for example, the vaccination rate went from 36 percent on April 26 to just 36.3 percent on May 4.

The average vaccination rate for all frontier counties as of May 4 was an unimpressive 44.7 percent, with rural counties at 49.8 percent. But thanks to subpar efforts in places such as El Paso (42.8 percent) and Mesa (41.1 percent), the urban counties' average was only 51.3 percent.

The bottom line: Vaccination rates in Colorado's urban counties are not much better than in rural or frontier locales — and none are good.

The following list shows the vaccination rates in all 64 Colorado counties as of May 4, ranked from highest to lowest, and divided between rural, frontier and urban. The numbers for the 24 counties without local public-health orders also include comparisons to figures on April 26; they've been italicized. (All of them favored Donald Trump in November 2020 unless otherwise noted.)

Rural Counties (24)

Summit — 72.9 percent
Eagle — 70.9 percent
Routt — 69.1 percent
La Plata — 61.6 percent
Ouray — 60.2 percent
Chaffee — 58.5 percent
Grand — 57.8 percent (56.4 percent on April 26)
Lake — 56.6 percent
Rio Grande — 56.6 percent (55.6 percent on April 26)
Pitkin — 55 percent
Archuleta — 53.3 percent
Garfield — 53 percent (51.1 percent on April 26; supported Biden in November 2020 election)
Alamosa — 49.7 percent (48.8 percent on April 26)
Montezuma — 47.4 percent (46.7 percent on April 26)
Phillips — 47.3 percent (46.6 percent on April 26)
Montrose — 42.5 percent (42 percent on April 26)
Conejos — 42.3 percent (41.5 percent on April 26)
Otero — 42.2 percent (41.2 percent on April 26)

Delta — 40.8 percent (40.1 percent on April 26)
Morgan — 40.8 percent (39.1 percent on April 26)
Fremont — 34.1 percent (33.1 percent on April 26)
Prowers — 35.2 percent (34.5 percent on April 26)
Logan — 30.7 percent (29.4 percent on April 26)
Crowley — 17.2 percent (16.7 percent on April 26)

Frontier Counties (23)

San Miguel — 79.2 percent
San Juan — 74.2 percent
Mineral — 73.5 percent (73.2 percent on April 26)
Gunnison — 69 percent
Hinsdale — 57 percent (56.8 percent on April 26)
Las Animas — 55.4 percent
Costilla — 53.6 percent (52.7 percent on April 26)
Huerfano — 47.8 percent
Sedgwick — 46.7 percent (46.6 percent)
Custer — 42.1 percent (41.4 percent on April 26)
Yuma — 40.8 percent (40.2 percent on April 26)
Jackson — 37.9 percent (36.8 percent on April 26)
Baca — 37 percent (36.8 percent on April 26)
Dolores — 36.9 percent (36.4 percent)
Kiowa — 36.3 percent (36 percent on April 26)
Moffat — 34.3 percent (33.6 percent on April 26)
Kit Carson — 34.2 percent
Rio Blanco — 33.4 percent (32.3 percent on April 26)
Lincoln — 31.7 percent (31 percent on April 26)

Saguache — 31.3 percent (30.7 percent on April 26; supported Biden in November 2020 election)
Cheyenne — 29.1 percent (28.2 percent on April 26)
Washington — 27.9 percent (27.4 percent on April 26)
Bent — 18.7 percent (18.1 percent on April 26)

Urban Counties (17)

Broomfield — 70.7 percent
Boulder — 67.2 percent
Jefferson — 65.8 percent
Denver — 62.4 percent
Douglas — 60.3 percent (57.7 percent on April 26)
Larimer — 58.9 percent
Arapahoe — 53.9 percent
Adams — 51.8 percent
Gilpin — 51 percent
Weld — 50.7 percent (48.2 percent on April 26)
Pueblo — 46.9 percent
Teller — 46.3 percent (44.9 percent on April 26)
El Paso — 42.8 percent (40.9 percent on April 26)
Mesa — 41.1 percent (40.5 percent on April 26)
Park — 39.1 percent (37.6 percent on April 26)

Clear Creek — 35 percent
Elbert — 29 percent (27.8 percent on April 26)

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