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Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order on Thursday morning that allows any Coloradan aged 18 and older to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.
“We want to ensure that Coloradans have every tool they need to protect themselves from this deadly virus and to help reduce the stress on our hospitals and health care workers,” Polis said in a statement. “Every Coloradan is now eligible to get the booster so they can protect themselves and their families.”
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Previously, booster shots were primarily available to the elderly and people in other high-risk categories, such as those that are immunocompromised. Under the new order, any adult Coloradan who is six months past their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months past getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster.
Federal regulators at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have yet to formally approve boosters for the general public. They have only recommended adults who are older than 65, have underlying medical conditions, or who received a Johnson & Johnson inoculation at least two months prior get the additional shot.
But Polis and Colorado health officials have indicated that the situation in the Centennial State has become too tenuous to wait. On Tuesday, the state initiated the Crisis Standard for Care staffing protocol, which allows hospitals to move workers to care for sicker patients than they might be accustomed to and gives the institutions and doctors temporary protection from liability. As of Wednesday, 95 percent of the state’s ICU beds are in use. That number is higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Around 1,400 Coloradans are hospitalized with the disease, which is the most since December 2020.
“COVID-19 hospital demand will increase until late December and could potentially exceed our current hospital capacity,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s lead epidemiologist, told a meeting of the Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee (GEEERC) on Wednesday. Herlihy estimated the state could accommodate about 2,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
“The booster will help keep immunity up and help keep you out of the hospital,” Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, said in a statement Tuesday, announcing that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would aim to keep vaccine administrators from turning away anyone older than 18 that wanted a booster. Polis’ order on Thursday formalized that directive.
The booster, however, may just be the beginning of the state’s efforts to combat rising hospitalizations. Polis indicated to the GEERC that he is looking into ways to expand hospital capacity, including eliminating regulatory hurdles. He also plans to push more cities to require that people who attend large events be vaccinated.