The ratio of those in Mesa County eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and those who are taking advantage of it has room for improvement, officials say.

Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said that among the agencies that have been offered the vaccine, participation is reported to be at around 50% so far.

“That number is what it is and we expect it to change,” Kuhr explained. “I think people are different. Some are early innovators, others are fence sitters and some are late adapters.”

He added that first doses came out right around the holiday and he’s heard that some delayed getting the vaccine to avoid any side effects during Christmas and New Year’s.

“It’s going to grow over time,” Kuhr said. “We’ve been so limited in the vaccine and by the amount we’ve received and that might have discouraged some.”

He added that participation among nursing homes and long-term care facilities is higher.

At Solstice Senior Living at Mesa View, where first doses of the vaccine were administered last week, Executive Director Glenda Reust said 80% of residents received the vaccine along with 50% of the staff.

The goal for Mesa County Public Health now is to get high participation among everyone 65 and older.

“We’re really focused on that 65 and older group,” Kuhr said. “We want 85% and over participation from that group.”

Currently, only individuals 70 and older have been moved up the vaccine distribution list, but Kuhr hopes to add people 65 to 69 years old soon.

“They are defined as the high-risk group by the CDC,” he said. “That’s the group we need to protect from the hospital and that’s the group that we need to flatten the curve.”

As of last week, more than 17,000 people have signed up to receive the vaccine through the MCPH online forms, the majority of whom are in the 70 and older category.

On Monday, Mesa County Public Health posed the question ‘Why are you getting the vaccine?’ on Facebook and received more than 140 comments from members of the community.

“So many reasons, but right now, the most important is protecting the vulnerable,” one person replied.

“Because I’m a teacher and I would do anything to get kids in school with no more risks of quarantine interruptions,” another wrote.

Kuhr is optimistic that they can hit their goal in getting people 65 and older signed up.

“They are the best consumers of the flu vaccine … How do we get to being more open? That 85% number is a significant benchmark in getting there,” he said.