Colorado higher education faculty and staff to be eligible for coronavirus vaccines in late March

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a May press conference.
Gov. Jared Polis announced a fifth coronavirus vaccination phase that will allow higher education faculty and staff to get the shot by late March. (Helen Richardson / The Denver Post)

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday added college and university faculty and staff to workers who are expected to become eligible March 21 to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Polis’ plan adds higher education to a new fifth phase, 1B.4, in the state’s vaccination rollout.  Higher education staff and some others had been in limbo about when they could qualify for the vaccine.

College leaders welcomed Friday’s news, especially as some schools already have returned to campus or are preparing to return to in-person learning.

University of Colorado Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks said college leaders across the state met with Polis’ team to stress the importance of adding faculty and staff to the state’s priority list. CU Denver plans to fully bring students back onto campus in the fall, the school announced on Thursday.

Marks said getting employees vaccinated helps ease fears about the transition.

“Knowing that faculty and staff can get vaccinated — and we hope that students will follow this summer — provides a lot more certainty to our planning,” she said. “It provides the opportunity to strengthen our economy in Colorado by ensuring that students continue to get their degrees and move into our workforce. It’s really a terrific day for the state of Colorado.”

Besides adding a phase and identifying new groups for the shot Polis pushed others lower on the vaccine priority list. 

Phase 1B.4 lists some essential frontline workers who previously were listed as eligible for vaccinations early March. The group includes restaurant and service employees, as well as postal workers and faith leaders. Polis said the demand for the vaccine in higher priority tiers has outstripped supply.

Gov. Jared Polis updated on Feb. 26, 2021 the state’s coronavirus vaccine timeline (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)

The state has shifted vaccine priorities since beginning to administer shots in December. Polis said during the Friday news conference this would be the last revision of categories.

“Every occupation deserves it,” Polis said. “Every age deserves it. We’re all going to get it if you want it.”

Polis changed the state’s plans on Jan. 29 when he advanced  K-12 educator eligibility to February. Since Feb. 8, tens of thousands of teachers and school staff have received the shot. 

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