In case you missed it: Colorado COVID-19 notes for the week

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Coloradans are fatigued by the pandemic, but life is looking more normal for those who are vaccinated.

By Drew Kartos | | May 3, 2021, 10:40 p.m. MST

Couple with band aids form covid vaccination sitting on couch

We all cannot wait to put this pandemic behind us and get back to a life without masks, physical distancing, and restrictions. The good news is we’re starting to see the first clear signs of community-level protection from vaccinations. COVID-19 case rates are highest where vaccination rates are the lowest, and vice versa. While being fully vaccinated doesn’t mean it’s time to get the party started, you are at a much lower risk with most everyday interactions. During this confusing transition period, as more people get vaccinated, choosing a safer activity is much more nuanced than before vaccines were widely available. While outdoor activities tend to be safer, the CDC has some helpful guidelines for mingling with vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike.

COVID-19 case rates are highest where vaccination rates are lowest

Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues

After a brief pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Colorado vaccine providers are resuming the use of the vaccine. The vaccine was initially paused to review reports of six individuals in the U.S. who got rare and severe blood clots (now called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS) after receiving the vaccine. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) agreed to lift the pause, but with a warning to patients about an increased risk of the very rare but potentially severe TTS, particularly among women under the age of 50. 

The FDA and CDC determined the following:

  • Use of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine should be resumed in the United States.
  • The FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.
  • The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • At this time, the available data suggest that the chance of TTS occurring is very low, but the FDA and CDC will remain vigilant in continuing to investigate this risk.
  • Health care providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers should review the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) and Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which have been revised to include information about the risk of this syndrome, which has occurred in a very small number of people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

If you are at all worried about the risk of side effects, you can report any adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or download CDC’s v-safe on your smartphone, which you can use to tell CDC about any side effects. Again, while it’s normal to have mild side effects, anything serious is extremely rare.

Cases rising among children

While most high-risk Coloradans are already vaccinated, we’re starting to see a concerning rise in cases among children — especially among middle and high school students. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a vaccine available for those under the age of 16, so we still need to rely on mask-wearing, physical distancing, and healthy habits like handwashing to control the spread among children.

Case rates among children

Vaccinated? Here are some quick reminders:

First of all, congrats on getting vaccinated! You‘re powering the comeback and doing your part to prevent the spread of the virus and get us one shot closer to community immunity. Here are some things to remember:

  • You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of Moderna/Pfizer or two weeks after your single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
  • Don’t skip your second dose; your body won’t have full protection from the virus.
  • While there’s a lot more you can start doing again, you should still do your part to protect yourself and others until enough people are vaccinated.
  • You may experience mild to moderate side effects (e.g. headache, muscle pain, fatigue). This is normal; your body is just building immunity. The good news is that all employers in the state, regardless of size, are required to provide a new supplement of up to 80 hours of COVID-related leave in 2021. Learn more about your rights. This includes paid sick leave for:
    • getting the COVID vaccine.
    • recovering from side effects that prevent you from working.

It’s never been easier to get vaccinated

It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago people were scrambling to get vaccinated — just as the eligibility opened to all Coloradans 16 and older. But now, getting vaccinated is convenient and easy. While most of our high-risk populations (e.g. frontline workers and older adults) have already received the vaccine months ago, we still have a long way to go for community immunity in Colorado.

Remember, we need anywhere from 67 - 79 percent of the population vaccinated for community immunity. According to the latest Census data, that puts Colorado at about 3.8 - 4.5 million people who need to get vaccinated. Currently, 1.8 million Coloradans are fully immunized and 2.5 million are immunized with one dose. 

The days of long lines and waiting lists are over. Walk-ins are now accepted at our six community vaccination sites, as well as our equity sites. Getting a vaccine is quick and free, and you aren’t required to show an ID. Find a vaccine provider near you. Also, keep your eye out for the mobile vaccine clinics. These buses can administer 500 vaccines per day for those who can’t easily access transportation.

The bottom line: We’re nearing the halfway mark for Coloradans who are fully vaccinated, but we still have a long way to go. Vaccinations are the single best way to end this pandemic, and we are fortunate to have enough for those who want it. We just need more people to make the choice to get vaccinated — for themselves, their families, and Coloradans.