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UCHealth Vaccinates 10,000 In Mass Weekend Clinic At Coors Field

Matt Bloom
Patients line up to receive their first doses of Pfizer vaccine at UCHealth's mass vaccination clinic in Denver on Jan. 30, 2021.

A team of nurses, doctors and pharmacists from UCHealth inoculated 10,000 residents over the weekend during what officials called the state’s largest COVID-19 vaccine operation to date. Good weather and data from a small trial run a week before helped the two-day clinic at Coors Field run smoothly, according to organizers.

Patients arrived in cars on Saturday as early as 7 a.m., even though the clinic didn’t officially begin until 8 a.m. At one point during the day, the line of cars stretched the entire length of the parking lot.

Dr. Richard Zane, UCHealth’s chief innovation officer, said the largest hiccup was managing all the early arrivals.

“We let them come in anyway,” Zane said. “I’m ecstatic with how it went. We even had some people sort of cheer and put their arms up. It’s one of the most satisfying things that most of us have ever done in our careers.”

The hospital system built an on-site pharmacy to store vaccines, Zane said. More than 100 staff were on site to help direct traffic and monitor patients after getting their shots. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Rockies and several other local agencies were involved in planning efforts.

Participants were required to pre-register. 5,000 patients were vaccinated each day. It was limited to people 70-and-older.

In their blue Jeep, partners Linda Amato, 72, and Randall Lee, 76, pulled up to one of dozens of white tents serving as vaccination sites. They rolled their windows down and, one at a time, a nurse stuck a needle in each of their arms. Within 5 minutes, both were done.

The Littleton couple said the experience felt like the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I want to cry,” Amato said after getting her dose. “It’s such a relief to be on our way back to normal. We miss our grandchildren.”

The couple said they plan to take a long-delayed trip to Hawaii once they get their second doses in three weeks.

Colorado has so far vaccinated more than half-a-million residents since the first shipments arrived in December. The state is currently in the early part of “phase 1B” of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which means only health care workers, first responders, and residents age 70-and-up are eligible.

The vaccine rollout has seen hiccups. Some residents have found it difficult to get an appointment due to high demand. Racial disparities are also emerging in preliminary state data.

On Friday, Gov. Jared Polis announced he would again expand the eligible population starting Feb. 8. The expansion includes teachers, child care workers, and adults 65-and-older can officially start getting shots.

While touring UCHealth’s mass vaccination clinic Saturday, Polis said he hopes to see more mass clinics as supply increases.

“It can’t replace small community clinics,” Polis said. “We don’t want all our 70-and-85 year olds to have to drive 2 hours to Coors Field. But certainly there’s a large population right near Denver. We’re also looking in Greeley, Fort Collins, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs.”

UCHealth plans to share its playbook and lessons learned from the clinic with other hospital systems in the state and across the country. The only limiting factor for doing more of them is supply of vaccines, Dr. Zane said.

“We would love to do more of these types of clinics, but we need more vaccines in order to do that,” Zane said. “This weekend was really to test and say ‘This is feasible. It’s not going to be like what you saw on TV in Florida or where it was just chaos like in Los Angeles.’ This is organized.”

The hospital system will hold another mass clinic in three weeks to give patients their second doses.

Northern Colorado residents who are eligible to receive vaccines can learn more about making appointments here.

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.
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