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'Eligibility Does Not Equal Availability': Coloradans Frustrated As Phase 1B4 Begins, Vaccine Supply Doesn't Meet Demand

DENVER (CBS4) - The latest phase of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan in Colorado, Phase 1B4, started on Friday allowing people 50 and older, as well as additional essential workers, and those with at least one high-risk condition to get their first dose. But those eligible started looking for appointments days before and continued to struggle for available vaccine doses throughout the first day of the new phase.

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"I want to get in there, I want to get this done, I want to do my part to help us get back to normal," said John Busselmaier, a Colorado resident now eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1B4. "I think that's sort of a big thing that I'm learning today is that eligibility does not equal availability."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment explained to CBS4 in an email that it communicated to providers, that the new phase began on Friday and that registration sites need to be updated. Health department officials say larger health care providers had made those updates but some smaller providers may not have made the change by Friday morning. They also said that they do not have enough of the vaccine to supply to all who are now eligible in the current phase.

"I didn't have high hopes to begin with, I thought if I got it by Memorial Day I'd be pretty excited about that so if I beat that, then I'll consider that a win," Busselmaier told CBS4 Friday on a video conference call.

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Safeway said in an email Friday that their system had been updated and they already started scheduling appointments with the latest phase. But staff wanted to remind the public they continue to open up appointments based on vaccine availability each day so customers should keep visiting their website.

Walmart said they are following eligibility requirements determined by the government and they are updating the system as the vaccine phases expand as quickly as possible.

King Soopers did tell CBS4 they did have a technical issue with their online appointment schedule system but it was addressed and updated to reflect the latest vaccine eligibility.

"Let's make sure that we have available vaccine before we start opening that up even further," Busselmaier said about the lag in eligibility and availability among providers.

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CDPHE says all providers are required to have a phone number in addition to a website to help book vaccine appointments. The state website also includes links to providers and also has a vaccine hotline: 1-877-CO-VAX-CO or 1-877-268-2926.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel, it tells me that the state is moving forward," Busselmaier said.

LINKS: Colorado Vaccine Website | High-Risk Conditions for Phase 1B4


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