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Karina White, medical assistant, prepares to administer a Pfizer vaccine during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic, hosted by Centura Health, at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. The number of vaccines administered in El Paso County fell last week by about 25% compared to the previous week.  (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

The number of people getting vaccinated for the coronavirus in El Paso County dropped off last week even as the percentage of people testing positive for the disease rose.

The number of people getting vaccinated fell from about 40,000 during the second week of April to about 30,000 last week, a drop of about 25%. The last time the number of vaccinations dropped below 30,000 was about seven weeks ago, when about 29,000 people were vaccinated, El Paso County Public Health data show. The numbers include an estimate of vaccines administered by the military.

El Paso County spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt said it is possible not all of the vaccines given last week have been reported. 

The drop in vaccinations was not driven by issues of supply. The county has more than 100 locations offering vaccines and is starting to us vans and buses to take vaccinations to people, she said. A total of about 450,000 vaccines have been administered in the county and about a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated, El Paso County data show.  

Vaccination numbers are dropping statewide. The seven-day average of first-dose vaccinations has fallen by half compared with the peak two weeks ago, according to data from the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday the drop in vaccinations likely came from a mix of hesitancy and laziness.

"The people that really wanted it have gotten it," he said. 

Polis said survey results show the overwhelming majority of Coloradans are interested in the vaccine. If 54% of the eligible population has received a dose, he said, then 30% or more are interested but haven't received it.

The decision to temporarily suspend the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may have played a role in the decline because people who preferred to get a single shot waited for it to become available again, he said.

Hewitt did not address a question about what role the pause on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine may have played in the drop in vaccinations or address if the confiscation of thousands vaccines from the Dr. Moma Health and Wellness clinic, a medical spa in Colorado Springs, may have played a role. 

As the pace of vaccination dips in the county, COVID-19 is on the rise with an average of 8.25% of local residents testing positive over seven days, up from about 7% last week, El Paso County Public Health data show. Over the past two weeks, 3,447 people have tested positive for the virus.

Higher numbers of young people are testing positive for the virus than other age groups. People age 20 to 29 make up the largest percent of new cases in the county at 17%, followed by those aged10 to 19, who represent 14% of new cases.

Older groups of El Paso County residents who were prioritized for vaccination are seeing far lower numbers cases. Among those 70 and older, 98 new cases were reported over the past 14 days

Deaths from the virus have dropped off substantially since the winter peak, with 16 people with COVID-19 dying in the county since the beginning of the month, the data show.

All six of Colorado's mass vaccination sites can now take walk-in appointments to help accommodate busy schedules, Polis said, adding he remained confident vaccination numbers will tick upward despite the current trend.

El Paso County's goal is to vaccinate 75% of the eligible population with at least one dose by July 4, El Paso County Public Health Director Susan Wheelan said. 

“We continue to shift and expand resources to keep the momentum up, working with partners to provide outreach and bring mobile vaccination vans directly into communities," she said. 

The new vaccination vans will provide 400 doses per location. Some of the vans will visit schools to vaccinate those 16 or older. The work will start with Cheyenne Mountain School District, Hewitt said. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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