More than a year ago the COVID-19 pandemic sent Colorado and much of the United States into lockdown. But as of today, Gov. Jared Polis announced that all Coloradans ages 16 and older are eligible to receive one of three approved vaccines.
Though certain members of the University of Colorado Boulder community have been eligible for some time, the transition to Phase 2 opens that opportunity up to everyone on campus. The university requires faculty and staff to sign up for a waitlist due to supply limitations.
Melanie Marquez Parra is the director of communications and chief spokesperson for media relations at CU Boulder. She helped answer questions about Colorado’s transition to Phase 2 and what it will look like for CU students.
Limitations at the state level mean that the University receives a variable number of vaccines each week.
“The number of vaccines received each week at the university is determine by the state,” Parra explained. “CU Boulder currently receives a very limited supply of doses.”
For this reason, the university requires students and staff to sign up on a waiting list. They have also prohibited “drop-in” appointments. Students and staff can sign up here. According to Parra, the number of vaccines the university receives changes weekly due to how many the federal government sends to Colorado.
Because of this variability, Parra was unsure how quickly CU will be able to fully vaccinate its students and staff, adding that it will depend on vaccine supply.
Over one million Coloradans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, according to CDPHE. This represents just under a sixth of the state population of 5.8 million. It is also well short of a University of Missouri estimate that calls for 80-90% of the population to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
The news is exciting, but day-to-day operations on campus will not significantly change. The university still expects students to complete weekly monitoring tests and fill out their BuffPass whenever on campus. Local and federal mask mandates remain in effect.
“We are still going to be operating as usual,” said Logan Tittle, the assistant director of operations for COVID-19 surveillance and monitoring. She added that vaccinated students “will still be required to give us a sample every week until further notice.”
Tittle ran a COVID-19 monitoring station at Sustainability, Energy & Environment Community building.
“The vaccine rollout really won’t affect the COVID surveillance and monitoring,” Tittle said.
In the weekly campus Q&A held on Wednesday, university leaders were hopeful that CU could hold summer and fall classes in person.
“Right now, we are setting our sights on finishing the semester as strong as we can,” Patrick O’Rourke, CU’s chief operating officer, said. “We are hoping to offer a much-revitalized CU experience built largely upon in-person instruction.”
The university currently does not require a COVID-19 vaccine to attend classes, which has left some uncomfortable. An anonymous member of the CU student body started a petition that asks the university to require the vaccination of students.
CU leadership acknowledges that they will remain flexible, following state and county guidance in order to maintain health and safety. They have also asked professors, supervisors and other campus leaders to also be as flexible as possible.
“By the summer we expect there will be enough vaccine supply available so that every adult that wants to be vaccinated, can be vaccinated,” O’Rourke said.
Emails received from Polis’ office also express hope that the end of the pandemic is near, but also advises Coloradans to not let their guard down.
“This is still a time for caution,” said Polis in an email to Coloradans. “If we keep our masks on a little longer, keep our distance whenever possible, and get the vaccine when it’s our turn, a hopeful summer will be here before we know it.”
The same email also says that while 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible for vaccination, they can only receive the Pfizer variant. The other two from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are only approved for citizens 18 and over.
The university and state encourage students to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. That form can be found here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alexander Edwards at Alexander.Edwards@colorado.edu.