JCPH closing large Arvada vaccination site to focus efforts

Clinic delivered over 10,000 shots

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/22/21

As COVID-19 vaccinations got underway in December, one of the first locations to begin offering the shots was Jefferson County Public Health’s vaccination center in Arvada. The drive-thru site, …

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JCPH closing large Arvada vaccination site to focus efforts

Clinic delivered over 10,000 shots

Posted

As COVID-19 vaccinations got underway in December, one of the first locations to begin offering the shots was Jefferson County Public Health’s vaccination center in Arvada.

The drive-thru site, which operated out of the Arvada Fire Protection District’s training center on Indiana Street, allowed up to six people at a time to get a shot from the comfort of their cars.

The focus of the site was squarely on the county’s most vulnerable residents, with the center being slower than the state to open its vaccinations to wider populations to ensure that it was prioritizing people who were having trouble securing a shot appointment from other providers.

It was also a large-scale operation that has given out as many as 500 shots a day.

But now, after putting more than 10,000 shots into arms, that site is closing permanently on March 25 as vaccination efforts enter a new stage and JCPH changes its focus.

“We’re really trying to move our efforts to focus on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to those priority populations within our community,” said Kelly Conroy, an associate director for Community Health Services at JCPH who is leading the agency’s vaccination efforts. “So that includes communities of color, particularly our Latinx community, and any other communities that are big challenges to accessing the COVID-19 vaccine and also that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus itself.”

Doing so, Conroy said, will involve trying “to meet those priority populations where they are” — an effort that cannot effectively be carried out from one vaccination site in the northern portion of the county.

Instead, JCPH will make several different approaches, including operating mobile clinics that will be able to “go where people are” as well as working with community partners to set up smaller clinics that will focus on distributing vaccines to populations that are being missed by traditional providers. Some of those clinics will also be hosted at JCPH’s own building in Lakewood, she said.

Recent examples of that including partnering with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on a clinic that targeted members of the Filipino community from around the metro area and a recent clinic in Arvada focusing on families involved in Jeffco’s head start program where members of the Hispanic community accounted for the majority of the appointment slots.

A big part of that effort will involve working with neighborhood groups and other organizations that can both encourage people to get the vaccine and then help them actually get a shot, often by providing both language resources and other “wraparound services.”

This approach is also born, Conroy said, out of JCPH’s recognition that more boots-on-the-ground work is going to be needed to make sure all communities have accessibility to the vaccine.

“I think the big thing is we know that our health system is not a one-size-fits-all and (delivering) the COVID-19 vaccine is also the same,” she said. “So, we have to be willing to meet those communities where they are and be very strategic in how we do that.”

Conroy said the approach JCPH is taking also makes sense because JCPH is allocated a far smaller percentage of the vaccine allocated to the county, with pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente allocated the bulk of it because of their ability to distribute a large amount of vaccine more quickly.

That has left JCPH to see much of its role going forward as trying to supplement the efforts of those bigger providers by focusing on those populations that might have difficulty setting up an appointment with those providers..

“We’re trying to be really responsive to listening to our community and be responsive to finding those groups that are having those challenges and may not be able to access the vaccine,” she said.

Those efforts are especially important because larger providers are required to post their appointments online and allow anyone who is currently eligible for vaccination under the state vaccination schedule to register for them.

Conroy said that those requirements on larger providers sets a different priority for them, as compared to JCPH’s goal to specifically target underserved communities.

Christine Billings, JCPH’s emergency response manager, said the agency is also advocating with the state for JCPH to be allocated a greater share of the available one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We are advocating to get that for populations like our persons experiencing homelessness so we can get out and do that boots-on-the-ground outreach with that population,” she said.

But while JCPH is ready to turn its attention more fully to reaching the underserved, Billings and Conroy said there are still some mixed feelings about seeing the Arvada site close, even as the closure is a testament to the success of some of the early vaccination efforts.

“It was a monumental effort to meet a huge need,” she said. “It’s kind of sad to see it close down so we can shift to the next level but we are ready for that.”

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