El Paso County is receiving fewer vaccines from the state than its population justifies — a problem local officials say they have asked the state health department to fix.
The county is home to 12.5% of the state's population, yet when the distribution numbers became public, "it didn't take a rocket scientist to see" the county was not getting 12.5% of the state's vaccine supply, Mayor John Suthers said at a Wednesday news conference. The problems seem to be an oversight at the state, he said.
"We’re going to examine these numbers every week and make sure that, if they’re in fact applying a population formula, we’re getting our fair share," he said.
Suthers said he has also brought his concerns to Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday, who was not aware of the lack of proportionate distribution. Polis committed to rectifying the problem to the extent there is inequity, Suthers said.
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Conor Cahill, a spokesman for the governor's office, said that while the state strives for geographical parity, it prioritizes resupplying providers who are rapidly delivering the vaccine, and El Paso County has 10,000 doses sitting on shelves. The state is willing to help with logistical support in the county if needed to speed up distribution, he said.
An analysis of vaccine distribution statewide by The Gazette last week showed El Paso County was lagging behind smaller counties on the number of vaccines it was receiving as a portion of its population. As of Jan. 24, 4.7% of the El Paso County population could have received a first dose. Smaller counties had received proportionately much more: For example, Pueblo had received enough first doses to vaccinate 12.7% of its population.
El Paso County was lagging behind larger counties too, such as Denver, which had enough initial doses to vaccinate 9.2% of its population as of Jan. 24.
County public health officials aren't sure what formula the state is using to distribute vaccines to counties and if population is part of the formula, said Michelle Hewitt, a spokeswoman for the agency. The federal government distributes vaccinations to states based on population, she said.
The county is expected to see an increase in vaccine supplies this week and in the coming weeks, said Susan Wheelan, director of public health for the county. Other counties have had similar problems with disproportionate distribution of vaccine and the health department is working with them as well, she said.
"As soon as we get those increased supplies, we will vaccinate as quickly as possible," Wheelan said.
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