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Peak Vista Health Centers started vaccinating patients 70 and older on Wednesday afternoon at their Jetwing Drive location in some converted training space. Peak Vista's Director of Clinical Informatics Courtney Abeyta, right, was among those preparing for patients Tuesday morning at the nonprofit.

Vaccinations of people 70 and older are picking up in El Paso County, with Peak Vista Community Health Centers and Centura Health vaccinating their first elderly individuals this week.

The county is currently in both phases 1A and 1B of the state's vaccination plan, wrapping up vaccines for essential health care workers and prioritizing the elderly and first responders, Michelle Hewitt, a county health department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers started vaccinating patients for COVID-19 on Wednesday and expected to see about 100 seniors during the first afternoon, said Amy Welsh, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit health organization.

On Wednesday, Centura — which runs Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs — announced it would also begin vaccinating those ages 70 and up.

UCHealth has been vaccinating the elderly since late December, first as part of a pilot program and then more widely, a spokeswoman for the hospital system said Wednesday. Across Colorado, the system has so far sent out more than 45,000 appointment invitations to the elderly and vaccinated nearly 12,000 seniors statewide, she added.

The three are among several health providers offering the vaccine to those 70 and older in El Paso County, including Kaiser Permanente, Matthews-Vu Medical Group, Optum and Mountain View Medical Group, Hewitt said. Additional providers will be added as vaccines become more available, she said.

"One of the biggest barriers at this time is not a lack of staff or agencies to administer the vaccine, but rather the limited supply," she said.

Peak Vista is contacting patients directly through text messages and emails to set up two appointments — to receive the first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine — and has already started a waitlist, Welsh said. She could not say how long the wait times might be for patients who haven’t scheduled an appointment yet. 

“We have had a tremendous response,” she said.

The nonprofit is scheduling seniors 70 and up as directed by the state and it is not prioritizing them by underlying medical conditions, said Dr. Joel Tanaka, senior vice president of medical services. The clinic is also not holding back vaccinations for second doses, instead relying on a steady supply from the state, he said. Walsh could not say how many vaccinations the clinic had received. 

Centura is sending invitations to elderly people to register for vaccination appointments via its online patient portal. Vaccine clinics are not accepting walk-ins.

Meanwhile, the county health department is working with community partners to get word of the vaccine to the county's elderly, many of whom may not be technologically savvy, Hewitt said.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 23,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the county, she added.

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

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