SAGUACHE COUNTY — According to Janet Beiriger from Saguache County Public Health, staff received 300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for the county’s first two clinics this week. Across Colorado, the Phase 1 distribution plan for the winter has been rolled out in two waves.
“We are vaccinating first responders first — EMS, Fire, Police, Healthcare workers — and also starting on our 70-and-older crowd,” Beiriger said. “We have allowed the immuno-compromised ones to join in that group as they are high risk.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine requires a thermal shipping container with dry ice storage chilled between -80°C and -60°C (-112°F to -76°F). Even the coldest recorded date in the state would have been too hot for leaving vials outdoors overnight (-61°F on Feb. 1, 1985, in Maybell, Colorado).
“We opted not to order that one because of that,” Beiriger explained. “We do not have the capacity to keep that one at those temperatures. The vaccine also has to be warmed up before it is given. Once it is warmed up and the vial opened, we have six hours to administer all the vaccine that is in it before we have to throw it away.”
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine requirement isn’t quite as chilling (-13°F and 5°F), and Rio Grande County health officials have offered storage for their neighbors to the north, if necessary. According to Beiriger, “We can store several doses in both the vaccine freezers we have, but if we need Rio Grande as a backup, we are very grateful they are there for us.”
Both approved vaccines in the United States require a second dose. Doctors recommend waiting 21 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and as Beiriger explained, “The Moderna vaccine recommends that a second dose be given at 28 days. We are hoping that we get enough vaccine to do that for everyone.”
As of Sunday, Jan. 3, 111,679 people in Colorado received their first COVID-19 vaccine.