As Boulder moves forward with coronavirus vaccine distribution, officials are trying to prioritize equitable access for all but have yet to fully develop a plan for doing so.
Chris Campbell, emergency management coordinator with Boulder County Public Health, said in Tuesday’s Boulder City Council COVID-19 update that the public health department plans to “put that health equity and racial equity lens front and center” when it moves into the next phase of distribution and can begin vaccinating essential front-line workers such as teachers, postal workers and grocery staff.
As such, BCPH hired a “vaccination cultural broker” to help develop a plan for disseminating information to the public so all people understand how the vaccine works and when and where they can receive one.
“We’re continuing to work on that so we’re ready to go when the vaccine is more widely available,” Campbell said. “We know that we can work with community members and meet them where they’re at and answer their questions about the vaccine and ensure they have access to the vaccine.”
Likewise, council later discussed a letter emphasizing the importance of ensuring an equitable approach to vaccine distribution for Latinx, Black, Indigenous and other marginalized communities that have been disparately impacted by coronavirus.
The letter, drafted by Mayor Sam Weaver and Councilmember Mary Young, will likely be sent to state officials and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We strongly support initial provision of vaccinations to those at the very highest level of risk: health care and front-line workers, residents of congregate care facilities and the elderly,” a draft of the letter stated. “As the vaccine becomes targeted towards a more general population, we believe that equitable access that minimizes harm becomes a critical moral consideration to address.”
The letter recommends using the Area Deprivation Index, which allows for rankings of neighborhoods by socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index to help prioritize distribution based on the social determinants of health.
However, the letter was under the “matters” section of the agenda and had not been officially discussed by City Council as of deadline.
In addition to touching on equitable access, Boulder City Council learned more about how distribution has gone thus far. Since the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine arrived in Colorado on Dec. 14, Boulder County has administered 6,000 vaccines, according to information shared Tuesday.
It’s been a bit of a challenge, particularly as the state shifted its priorities for distribution and moved people over 70 ahead of some essential front-line workers.
“When the change to that vaccine priority happened, our plans went from vaccinating roughly a little over 20,000 people to tens of thousands more people overnight,” BCPH Director Jeff Zayach said. “So we’re having to do a little bit of adjusting to work with our hospitals and our providers to figure out how we’re actually going to accomplish all that.”