During a press conference on Monday morning, Governor Jared Polis announced that every Coloradan age 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning this Friday, April 2.

“This is a really important step we will be taking,” Polis said. “We’re now reaching this wide level of vaccine distribution.”

The move will officially usher in Phase 2, the final stage of Colorado’s vaccine distribution timeline. Five phases came before this last one, including Phase 1B.4, which began on March 19 and allowed some 2.5 million Centennial Staters—most notably, people ages 50 and older and frontline workers, such as food-service employees—to begin getting the vaccine.

Polis originally said he anticipated Phase 2 would begin sometime in mid-April. The accelerated start date comes as the state is expected to receive more vaccine supply in the coming weeks. Currently, Colorado gets more than 400,000 doses a week from the federal government, and shipments are expected to increase by tens of thousands as April progresses.

Right now, COVID-19 cases are rising in Colorado following last week’s decision to ease restrictions in many parts of the state. The number of more-contagious coronavirus variants is also likely increasing. The state is trying to race to get the vaccine to as many people as possible before the variants cause a huge spike in hospitalizations.  

The early launch of Phase 2, however, doesn’t mean that every resident will be able to immediately receive a shot on Friday. “Patience is key,” Polis said. “[We] do anticipate that everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be able to get it by the end of May.”

And Polis said he has asked health care providers to try to prioritize the most vulnerable populations and to work with employers to get shots to frontline workers. Colorado is one of at least 13 states that have either already opened up vaccine distribution to all adults or plan to do so by the end of the week.

Children under the age of 16 will still not be able to receive the vaccine. The Pfizer inoculation has only been approved for people ages 16 and up, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson versions can be given to anyone who is at least 18. Clinical trials are underway to see if the vaccines currently being used on adults are safe for kids.

As of midday Monday, 1.58 million Coloradans had received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 950,000 residents are fully immunized.

During the same press conference, Polis also hinted he might eliminate the statewide mask mandate come mid-April. At that point, counties will be able to decide for themselves whether to enforce mask use.

When asked about the mask mandate, Polis said, “I don’t expect much to change in the next two weeks. What’s changing is more and more people are getting vaccinated.”

Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.