Colorado lawmakers will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine for the 2021 legislative period that begins Wednesday, and will likely push them forward over hundreds of thousands of others in the state’s second vaccination phase.
House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, assured that members of the General Assembly are given priority. Lawmakers are expected to receive two doses of the vaccine by February 16, when the law-enactment period is expected to begin in earnest, about two weeks ago when the state hopes to vaccinate the majority of Colorado residents who are 70 or older.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Veinberg, a Democrat from Boulder, said Monday, “I don’t think we’re crossing the line.” “We do not in any way get vaccinations from others who are in dire need of them more than us. But I think it is important for the continuity of our state government that the Legislative Council is able to meet what the constitution requires.”
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Not everyone supports the plan. Senator. Paul Lundin, a Republican at Monument, said he would refuse to get vaccinated before the others. Instead, he will wait when he would have been vaccinated if he hadn’t legislated.
“I’m not going to stand in line in front of other people who are more at risk,” said the 61-year-old.
In late December, Gov. Jared Polis modified the Colorado Vaccine Distribution Plan to move state legislators and other essential government workers to Phase 1B, placing them behind frontline healthcare workers who interact with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, as well as nursing home residents and employees.
The second stage now also includes Coloradans over 70, teachers, and healthcare workers who have less direct contact with coronavirus patients, first responders, key workers and some journalists. But state health officials have recommended that people over the age of 70, first responders, and health care workers be vaccinated earlier than others in Group 1B. More than 1.3 million people, or nearly a quarter of the state’s population, are part of this stage.
More: Colorado reshapes its coronavirus vaccination plan, moves essential workers and people 70 years of age or older in line
There are 100 legislators. There are a large number of people in Colorado who are over the age of 70, so I think … it will simply take some time to get past these residents, ”Feinberg said.
Colorado lawmakers intend to start the session this week, but are meeting for just three days to deal with a handful of bills before they take a long break until February 16, when the bulk of the legislation process is expected to resume. We hope that Colorado coronavirus cases will decrease by then. The decision to take a break was made before lawmakers lined up to receive the vaccine.
Representative Dania Isgar, the House Majority Leader, said the schedule is based on advice from public health officials who are concerned about the rising number of cases from the New Year’s Eve celebrations and holidays. “That was to give us that place and time to make sure our COVID numbers are down,” said Esgar, D-Pueblo.
House Republican Leader Hugh McCain said he called his doctor to ask whether he should get the vaccine before the hearing, given the potential for exposure on the Capitol. If necessary, McCain said he would “prefer the people who need it more than me to take it.”
“My advice to my members is that they need to consult their doctor and determine their level of risk,” Loveland lawmaker said Monday. “And if they want to benefit from the vaccine or not, it’s really up to them.”
Sage Naumann, the Republican spokesperson for the Colorado Senate, said the caucus had not been consulted about making the vaccine available to lawmakers.
He said in a written statement: “The decision to introduce the vaccine was not a choice for our group, and he was not asked for our opinion before the decision was made.” “Our members have been encouraged to speak to their doctors and make a medical decision of their own.”
The vaccine is also being offered early on to accredited journalists who regularly cover the Colorado legislature, including two journalists from the Colorado Sun.
Even if lawmakers in Colorado get vaccinated this week, they likely won’t be able to take full advantage of the vaccine when they return on February 16th.
This is because the vaccines must be given in two doses several weeks apart. For the Pfizer vaccine, there is supposed to be a 21-day break between a person receiving their first and second dose. For the Moderna vaccine, a 28-day interval between the two doses is recommended.
After the two doses are given, it takes several more weeks for the vaccine to start to full strength.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website: “It usually takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection from the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination.” “This means that it is possible for a person to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 immediately before or after vaccination and still be ill. This is because the vaccine did not have time to provide protection.”
Feinberg said the session schedule is flexible, but the Democratic leadership is unlikely to delay enacting laws further to allow more time for lawmakers to build immunity against COVID-19. “This is about mitigating risks,” he said. “It’s not about eliminating the risks.”
Even with the vaccine being introduced, Feinberg added that public health protocols will still be in place to start the session, including rapid testing, social distancing, and requirements to wear a mask on the Capitol. Requirements to help protect members of the public and staff in the building are expected to continue even after lawmakers are vaccinated.
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