DENVER — Governor Jared Polis began his January 15 COVID-19 press briefing in a more serious tone than usual.
“Today I come before you extremely disappointed,” Polis said. “We were lied to with plans of the [Trump] administration to release reserve doses that were to be the second doses of the vaccine.”
On January 12, the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Trump administration was reversing course and would ship out the COVID-19 vaccines that were being held in reserve. These newly available vaccines would be used for second doses (both the Pfizer and Modern vaccines require two shots).
Just one problem: those reserves are already empty.
Polis said he was informed earlier in the day on January 15 about the nonexistent reserves, despite a call with Vice President Pence just three days ago in which the governor was told the reserve doses would be available.
Tweeting from his personal account before the press conference, Polis said the initial announcement about the reserves led Colorado state officials to believe they were going to receive 210,000 doses next week. Instead, the state will only be getting about 79,000.
The previously promised doses would have provided three weeks worth of vaccines, Polis said. “Now we know that it simply doesn’t exist,” the governor said.
Despite the disappointing development, Governor Polis said Colorado is still on track to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of the population ages 70 and up by the end of February.
Colorado has received 300,100 doses to date. Of those doses, 242,495 have been administered.
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Polis added that Colorado is largely done with Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine plan, which includes vaccinations for front line health care workers as well as residents and staff at long-term care facilities. The governor said 85% of front line health care workers have received their first dose of the vaccine. And as of January 15, 202 of the state’s 209 skilled nursing facilities have received their vaccine doses.
Polis said the state is now prioritizing vaccines for the 70 and up population. He said that if Colorado had gotten the reserve vaccines, the state could have begun giving vaccines to other groups.
During the press conference, a reporter asked Polis if he thought the announcement about the reserve vaccines was a form of “vengeance” by the outgoing Trump administration.
“My guess is it’s gross incompetence,” Polis said.
You can watch his full remarks below.