More than 2,300 people received COVID-19 shots at a drive-through vaccination clinic Saturday at The Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.

The event, hosted by Centura Health in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado, was held in the arena parking lot despite single-digit temperatures that forced weekend closures at all El Paso County testing sites. But with the weather expected to get even worse, Centura canceled Sunday's drive-through clinic; those scheduled to receive their vaccine at Sunday's mass vaccination event will automatically be invited to receive their first dose on Feb. 20 instead.

Saturday's clinic focused primarily on Coloradans in Phase 1B of the state's vaccination plan, including people over 70 and educators.

Dozens of health care workers administered shots in the parking lot, occasionally ducking into one of five mobile trailers to grab supplies and warm up. Motorists were able to get their shots without having to leave their vehicles.

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Gov. Jared Polis, who visited the pop-up clinic Saturday morning, said he was impressed with the coordination between the county health department and the local health care systems.

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Tricia McCumber receives her first does of the Pfizer vaccine during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic, hosted by Centura Health in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado, at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The focus of the clinic was for people age 70 and older, educators, underserved and lower-income sectors of the population. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

He was also pleased that so many residents braved the freezing conditions to take an important first step toward “near-complete immunity” from the coronavirus. 

 “In Colorado, we’re not afraid of a little cold,” he said. “This is how a pandemic ends — one arm at a time.”

The state health department has been focusing on equity in vaccine distribution, including pop-up clinics in underserved, lower-income communities, according to the governor.

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Vehicles line up during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic, hosted by Centura Health in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado, at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

El Paso County received 25,000 doses from the state in the past week.

“We wish we had more,” Polis said. “But we’re going to be using every dose we get within a few days of receiving them.”

Mayor John Suthers, who accompanied Polis at the clinic, said it’s going to take a combination of large-scale events like the arena clinic, and smaller-scale vaccination sites, such as at King Soopers and Safeway stores, to effectively immunize a majority of the population.

“I’m very optimistic,” Suthers said. “The pace at which we’re attacking this problem has increased dramatically and I’m convinced that sooner, rather than later, things are going to get back to normal.”

Dr. Brian Erling, president and CEO of Penrose-St Francis Health Services, echoed the mayor’s sentiments.

“We have to do this if we want to put an end to the pandemic,” said Erling, who noted that St. Francis Medical Center planned to administer an additional 1,000 doses over the weekend. “It’s really something that is important to all of us.”

Polis hopes that as more Coloradans get vaccinated, with minimal side effects, other residents will overcome their hesitancy about getting the shot.

“It’s just the smart thing to do, particularly if you’re at greater risk for this virus,” he said. “This is the best thing you can do to protect yourself, and to protect your loved ones.”

Suthers said more large-scale events will be needed in the coming months if and when greater amounts of vaccines become available.

“I think we’re on our way to better days ahead,” he said.

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