700 seniors vaccinated for COVID-19 on 1st day of clinic at Pueblo Mall

Cars line up at the Pueblo Mall on Jan. 11, 2021 for the first day of the city's 70+ vaccine...
Cars line up at the Pueblo Mall on Jan. 11, 2021 for the first day of the city's 70+ vaccine clinic. The clinic reached capacity more than an hour before it officially opened.(KKTV)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 8:09 AM MST
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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - Nearly 700 Pueblo seniors were vaccinated Monday after hours of waiting in line at the Pueblo Mall.

“I think that’s a big win for the community. Seven hundred people who are at the highest risk of complications from COVID -- that’s a real win,” said Pueblo Public Health Director Randy Evetts.

The response from Pueblo’s 70+ population was overwhelming on day one of the county’s free vaccination clinic, far beyond what officials expected, Sheriff Kirk Taylor acknowledged.

“We weren’t anticipating, number one, the crowds that were coming today,” he said, referring to the line of cars snaking around the parking lot all the way to the roadway before the clinic even opened. “... We turned a lot of people away today. Specifically those people out on the highway. It was terrible. My guys hated to do it and the city hated to do it as well. We’re past that, and I hope they accept my apology and we’re going to fix it.”

The clinic officially opened at 9 a.m. The health department reported having more people in line than vaccines available prior to 8 a.m. and were forced to close the clinic to anyone showing up after that time. At least 1,500 people were turned away Monday.

Issac Duran and Pablo Ramirez were two of the lucky ones Monday to get their first vaccine dose.

“We are so glad [the vaccine] is here and that’s why we got in line early this morning,” said Ramirez, who got in line at 6 a.m. “We’re anxious for it to be given to us.”

For Duran, who showed up at 4 a.m., the hours of waiting Monday were nothing compared to the 10 months he’d already endured.

“I’ve been isolating since March 14. I have not seen any of my family. I have not seen my children, I have not seen my grandchildren. This is the closest I’ve been to my siblings; she’s behind me in the next car,” he told 11 News reporter Nicole Heins.

The health department told Heins they were vaccinating about eight people every five minutes. They hope going forward to vaccinate up to 1,000 people every day.

“We have 23,000 people in this community 70+. Twenty-three thousand. So you do the math. We’re going try to get as fast as we can as much as we can from the state and get them vaccinated,” Taylor said.

Pueblo County, like other counties in Colorado, receives vaccine doses weekly from the state. The number each county gets is based on its population. Counties will continue to get vaccines weekly until everyone is vaccinated, but on that weekly basis, doses are limited.

“It was heartening to see the response by the community to this vaccination clinic this morning. Heartening to see how many people are interested in getting vaccinated. Unfortunately, the vaccines available to us have been pretty inconsistent and have been a limited supply in terms of them getting down here, so it’s pretty hard to plan for these mass vaccination clinics,” said Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar.

Going forward, the county has launched a new website and phone number for seniors to get their names on a master list so they don’t have to wait in line.

“The citizens of Pueblo who are over 70 at the present time who want to get vaccinated can leave their identifying information, they’ll be put on a list, and when it’s their turn, we’ll notify them, either by phone call or email, that tomorrow is your day or the day after tomorrow or however it works out, that it’s your turn to come in here, so that people over 70 don’t have to wait in line all day every day until they get vaccinated,” Gradisar said.

More information on that site can be found here.

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