By the end of next week, a whole new group of people will qualify to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday.

That’s when the state will open up access to the vaccine to people 50 and older, and a whole slew of essential workers, from restaurants to transit workers to manufacturing.

Adding those groups to the mix will impact roughly half the state’s population, and keep the state ahead of President Joe Biden’s schedule of getting all Americans access to the vaccine by May 1.

“In many ways, it’s one of the greatest undertakings in recent history, like our 21st century moon shot with only a matter of weeks and months to get there,” Polis said. “We now have the tools we need, the people-powered infrastructure. We’re ready to vaccinate more Coloradans faster than ever before, we simply need the vaccine. The good news from Washington is, the vaccine is coming.”

After that, the governor said he’s fully expecting to include the entire state by the middle of April.

All that is expected to be possible because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ramped up getting the vaccine, and expects to have 200 million doses available nationwide over the next 2 1/2 months.

“For Colorado, that means over 3.4 million doses that we’ll be receiving over the next 10 weeks,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman of the Colorado National Guard, who is heading the state’s vaccine task force. “In April, we are expecting to receive over a half million doses a week, that’s why we’re getting these community vaccination sites established.”

One of those sites is at the Grand Junction Convention Center, where Mesa County Health Department Executive Director Jeff Kuhr is hoping to soon start dispensing about 6,000 doses of the vaccine a day.

To date, about 76% of people 70 and older have gotten at least their first dose, while about 63% of people 65 to 69 have gotten their first shot. Additionally, more than 90% of teachers and child-care workers also have gotten the vaccine.

People 60 and up just became eligible for their first dose last week.

“This is a monumental effort,” said Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s incident commander for the state’s COVID-19 response. “It requires flexibility, it requires collaboration and it requires patience. But as our supply increases, we are really making great progress in our race against this virus and ending this crisis as quickly as possible.”

To learn more about upcoming phases, find local providers or to schedule an appointment with the Health Department, go to health.mesacounty.us/covid19/vaccine/.