Larimer County Not Pursuing Vaccine Verified Facility Program; Optimistic About New Opportunities to Fight COVID-19
The Larimer County Department of Health & Environment (LCDHE) is no longer pursuing the implementation of the optional Vaccine Verified Facility & Event Program. LCDHE is focused instead on new opportunities to fight the virus by providing boosters, pediatric vaccines, and exploring ways to increase access to monoclonal antibody treatments.
On October 20th, the Ninth Public Health Order (PHO) requiring masks in all public indoor spaces in Larimer County went into effect. The PHO initially included the optional Vaccine Verified Facility & Event Program that would have allowed businesses to operate without requiring masks if at least 95% of individuals inside the facility were vaccinated. Due to community concerns, the program was paused on October 21st and the PHO was amended to remove it from the order on October 25th. After engaging with a variety of stakeholders, including members of the business community, LCDHE has concluded not to move forward with the Vaccine Verified Facility & Event Program. Masks are currently required to be worn in all public indoor spaces in Larimer County by those ages 3 and up, regardless of vaccination status.
In Larimer County,12.4 percent (44,200) of residents have already received a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and as of this week, all fully vaccinated individuals ages 18 and older in Colorado are eligible to receive a booster. Boosters can reduce the chance of infection and transmission of the disease, giving the immune system a “boost.”
“With the emergence of the Delta variant, we are seeing a decrease in the effectiveness of the initial two vaccine doses. The booster dose has been shown to significantly increase the immune response to better protect us from infection,” says Dr. Paul Mayer, Larimer County Medical Director.
Vaccines for 5-11 Year Olds
Last week, children ages 5-11 became eligible to get the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Although severe COVID-19 disease is less common in this age group, the highly contagious Delta variant makes it more likely that children will catch the virus and spread it to others. Not only can vaccinating children help protect them from getting COVID-19 and therefore reduce their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications, they can also reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission.
Vaccination Appointments with LCDHE
In response to the high demand for boosters and pediatric vaccines, LCDHE has more than doubled the number of vaccine appointments available, expanded clinic hours, and added staff in the Fort Collins and Loveland LCDHE locations.
COVID-19 Treatment Options
In addition to vaccination, LCDHE is encouraged by advances in treatment options. Access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment is beginning to increase across Colorado. Residents who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider as early as possible for more information about how to get the treatment. Monoclonal antibody treatment can help prevent severe illness and hospitalization for some people who get infected with COVID-19.
Oral antiviral treatments are also on the horizon. Pfizer’s PAXLOVID pill was 89% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial and the data is being submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization. An effective oral treatment to help prevent severe COVID-19 would be a game changer because it would be easier to reach a large group of at-risk residents with an effective, easily managed treatment.
“I am optimistic that these new opportunities to fight the virus will contribute to reducing the burden of COVID-19 in Larimer County hospitals, which will assist in decompressing our hospitals and freeing up beds for all medical needs,” says Tom Gonzales, Larimer County Public Health Director.
The Larimer County Department of Health & Environment has a webpage dedicated to helping residents find information about COVID-19 vaccination and register for an appointment at www.larimer.org/covidvaccine. The direct link to schedule an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine is: https://larimerhealth.secure.force.com/Vaccine/. Appointments open throughout the week, so residents should check back if all slots are full. Individuals may also call LCDHE at 970-498-5500 for assistance scheduling an appointment. Phone assistance is available in English and Spanish.