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This is a weekly Q and A column written by Dr. Lydia S. Segal in conjunction with Chaffee County Public Health. This column is focused on questions readers have about COVID-19 news and sciences.  As Segal points out, “Everything I write today is valid for today. COVID-19 news and science are rapidly evolving; assume updates will be made”

QUESTION:  I hear Governor Polis opened the vaccine eligibility. Who is eligible now and where can I get my shot?

Variants in the COVID-19 virus are taking hold throughout the United States.

ANSWER: If you are 16 and older you are eligible for a vaccine as of Friday, April 2. The supply of vaccines has increased and more vaccine clinics are opening, so getting an appointment should not be a problem. Keep in mind you need to be available either 21 or 28 days later for shot number two if you get the Pfizer or Moderna. See the links at the end of this Q & A for sites to register.

Pfizer              16                    2                                21 days
Moderna        18                    2                                28 days
J & J                18                   1                                 N/A

QUESTION:  Why do I want one shot over the other?

ANSWER: You don’t, as every one of the current vaccines reduces COVID-19 related deaths to zero. Should you get COVID-19 when inoculated, you should have symptoms no worse than a bad cold or flu. There is an almost zero chance of an ICU hospital stay no matter which vaccine you get.

QUESTION:  How effective are the vaccines against the variants? 

ANSWER: It will be several more months before we know the answer to the question of vaccine effectiveness against the variants. At that point we may know if one vaccine conveys a more robust immune response to a specific variant. At this time all the vaccines promote some immunity with variants, but less than against the original virus. For a more detailed answer, see last week’s Q & A.

QUESTION:  What does the “new normal” look like and when is it likely to happen?  When can I party, what do I do for spring break? When can I take my mask off?

ANSWER: The CDC, and general infectious disease expert recommendations are summarized below:

If everyone is immunized, you can unmask and you do not need to social distance, even inside.
If everyone is not immunized or there is risk to an immunocompromised person, then play and eat outside unmasked, but inside mask up and social distance.
If in doubt, err on the side of safety even if it’s not fun.

QUESTION:  The positivity rate is going down. What does this mean? 

ANSWER:   As of March 29, the Chaffee County positivity rate is 1.7. We are currently at BLUE COVID-19 restriction status. In Chaffee County, Colorado and many parts of the USA the positivity rate is going down. Both federal and academic experts postulate that this is due to two factors. The first is the effect of those vaccinated in the more vulnerable populations, i.e., over 65 and people with preexisting illness not getting sick. Equally important is the decrease in the number of people getting tested. Experts encourage all people who feel sick or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to get tested. The county provides free testing. Information is in the county link at the end of this column.

QUESTION:  If we are all getting vaccinated, why did President Biden just suggest we continue to mask and social distance?

ANSWER: The country still has a way to go before we get to herd immunity. And with the variants on the rise, and the unknowns about how effective the vaccines are against the variants, the president was advised by his medical COVID-19 team to encourage continued masking and social distancing. Of note, in states where mitigation measures have been relaxed, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased.

QUESTION:  How many people need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity?  And what does herd immunity mean?

ANSWER:  The CDC defines herd (aka community) immunity as “when a sufficient portion of a population is immune to an infectious disease due to vaccine or prior illness.”  Infectious disease experts and the CDC feel that somewhere between 70 percent to 90 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd, ie., community immunity.   At the current speed of the vaccine rollout, predictions of reaching this level are for some time this summer. More vaccines are becoming available so more people will be eligible. There will be some people who will not vaccinate regardless of safety or efficacy.

For more information about COVID-19 and the vaccines, eligibility, and appointments, see the links below. Pharmacies will be getting small shipments of vaccines in the near future. Information will be posted on AVV online and on the county public health web pages.

Other resources for vaccines:

  • Buena Vista Drug and Valley-Wide Health
  • Safeway Pharmacy
  • Salida Pharmacy

By Lydia S. Segal, M.D., MPH

If you have questions you would like Dr. Segal to address in a future COVID-19 Q and A column, please write to