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COVID-19 vaccine distribution is going to the next level in Grand Junction.

Beginning this week, Grand Junction Convention Center is a mass vaccination point in Mesa County. Appointments are now being taken for those that are in the designated priority groups to receive the vaccine.

Jeff Kuhr, Mesa County Public Health Executive Director, says 20 vaccinators on site will be able to vaccinate 10 people per hour which translates to about 1200 doses administered per day. Expanded vaccination capability remains a possibility if needed in the future, as currently, only about two-thirds of the available space at the convention center is being utilized.

The current issue is the supply of the vaccine. Kuhr says the state of Colorado his week is due to receive 45,000 doses of the vaccine, but 20,000 doses are going to long-term care facilities, leaving a relatively small amount of vaccine available for public distribution. Kuhr says by the end of this week, all of the long-term care facilities will have seen their first dose of the vaccine.

Kuhr says, ultimately, the goal is to have 80% of Mesa County residents age 65 and older be vaccinated. He says that would greatly reduce the amount of stress on the healthcare system, and reduce the number of deaths - both being large factors in "getting the community back to normal."

In December, a vaccination form was put on the Mesa County Public Health website, and so far, 17,000 people have signed up to receive the vaccine. About 2,000 of those have been vaccinated so far.

In regards to the vaccination clinic at the convention center, Kuhr says appointments are absolutely necessary and emphasized they can not accept walk-ins. He says it's the most effective way for them to manage the supply of the vaccine and ensures they open and can use the exact number of doses each day, given the storage and monitoring requirements.

Currently, vaccination is available to those age 70 and older as well as essential workers. Kuhr says they hope to have the majority of the 70+ age group vaccinated by the end of February. If you would like to express interest in being vaccinated, you can sign up on the MCPH website, and they will notify you as to when your vaccination is possible.

Meanwhile, the COVID testing sites at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, CMU, and the two school locations, Grand Mesa Middle School, and Fruita Monument High School. Kuhr strongly encourages everyone to continue to utilize these sites as necessary.

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