Jeff Kuhr with vaccine

Photo courtesy of Mesa County Public Health

Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr poses with the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to front-line health-care workers in Mesa County.

Those people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus and now are testing negative doesn’t mean they can’t get it again.

As a result, they won’t be treated any differently when their time comes to receive the vaccine, the first doses of which hit the state on Monday, and Mesa County on Tuesday.

“Those who have had COVID at any point, it does not change their priority for a vaccination,” Gov. Jared Polis said at his regular biweekly update on the state’s response to the coronavirus.

“It may change their personal decision about the vaccination, but because so much is unknown about the duration and the level of protection from previous infections, when it does go to a nursing home, it’ll go to the 70-, 80-, 90-year-olds and staff members who’ve already had COVID as well as those who have not,” he said. “There’s simply too many question marks around the level and duration of potential protection from an infection invent.”

Those comments are backed up by experts.

The Kansas-based American Academy of Family Physicians, for example, said the same thing, adding natural immunity to the virus appears to wane over time.

“The trial results of one of the vaccine candidates indicate 95% efficacy at preventing COVID-19,” the academy says. “By getting vaccinated, you are reducing your risk of disease, hospitalization, severe complications and even death. Getting vaccinated and reducing the risk of disease also helps prevent the heath care system from being further overwhelmed.”

On Monday, front-line health-care workers, those treating infected patients directly, were the first to get the Pfizer vaccine, which to date is the only one available.

Mesa County received its first shipment of Pfizer doses Tuesday, and those, too, will be used to treat front-line health-care workers. Those vaccinations will be done in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local health care providers, the county’s public health department said in a statement.

The next wave of vaccines, from second vaccine drug maker Moderna, are coming to the state next week. On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that vaccine also to be highly effective.

Since the Moderna vaccine, which like the Pfizer variant requires two shots over a 21- to 28-day period, doesn’t require a specialized freezer system to store, they will go to those older, more vulnerable people living in long-term care facilities, including staff who work there, Polis said.

“They are easier to transport and store because they can be kept at normal freezer conditions like your frozen food,” the governor said. “Hospitals have these (ultra-cold) freezers, so they’re generally going to health-care workers for the Pfizer vaccine.”

That first round of doses, which also will go to first-responders such as police and firefighters, included 46,800 from Pfizer and 95,600 from Moderna, with more coming in weekly.

The second phase of vaccinations, which are expected by the spring, will go to teachers, people with underlying health conditions, workers in high-density settings such as meat-packing plants, people who work directly with the general public such as grocery store workers, and anyone aged 65 or older.

The third phase this summer will open the vaccine up to everyone else who are between the ages of 18 and 64. State health officials have said that the vaccines aren’t yet approved for anyone under 18.

Meanwhile, Polis said things are going smoothly, although its too early to know about any potential problems in rolling out the vaccine.

“There are no distributions problems that have been brought to my attention,” Polis said. “But we’ll keep the general public updated about the deployment of the vaccine in Colorado.”

Both vaccines require two doses to be taken weeks apart, so Polis warned that people aren’t considered fully vaccinated against the virus until a couple of weeks after their second dose.

Like he did just before Thanksgiving, Polis urged those looking to celebrate Christmas and the year-end holidays to continue to be remain on guard by wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds with people outside of direct households.

He said that although it’s fine to worship at local churches, just be cognizant of the dangers involved, adding that if anyone plans to travel for the holiday, now is the time to start quarantining before departure.

“As Christian Coloradans and secular Coloradans who celebrate Christmas and observe this wonderful holiday, please be thoughtful, be careful, protect yourselves, protect your family, protect your loved ones,” he said. “If you’re in the vulnerable group, if you’re in your 70s or 80s, be extra careful. Consider doing that midnight Mass or Christmas Mass virtually if you can. There’s a very high level of community transmission.”