State will lower income tax and pay primary care providers to increase COVID-19 vaccination rate

BY FREDA MIKLIN
GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER

Governor Polis announced a new program to increase the vaccination rate in Colorado.

At a press conference on September 2, Governor Jared Polis announced that, “Primary care providers (PCP) can receive grant funding ranging from up to $60,000 to up to $120,000 depending on practice size for supporting COVID-19 vaccination and discussing the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccine between doctor and patient. Applications are being accepted now through December 1, 2021 and the state will review them on a rolling basis until all funding is distributed. To apply for the PCP program, visit COPCPVAX.com.” All monies being used are from the federal CARES Act and Rescue Act.

In important but unrelated news, the governor also shared that, with “Colorado’s economy roaring back…there will be an additional reduction to the (state) income tax next year for every Coloradan, every small business, from 4.55% to 4.50% for 2022.” He added that the average state income tax refund next year will be $70 for individuals and $166 for joint filers.

Returning to the subject of COVID-19, Polis announced that 796 Coloradans were currently hospitalized with the virus, of which 103 were previously vaccinated, though many of the 103 “are immunosuppressed or have other conditions.” He added that 75 percent of the adult population in the state has been vaccinated. 

Regarding children, the governor said that there were five patients under age 12 and six between the ages of 12 and 17 presently hospitalized with COVID-19, pointing out that, in the 12 to 17 cohort, “There is very close to 100 percent efficacy” of the vaccine. He noted that only 54 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 in our state have gotten vaccinated.

Overall, the governor said that it appears that the growth in case numbers of COVID-19 is beginning to plateau, “but we aren’t yet seeing a decline.”

Turning to the 25 percent of adult Coloradans who are not yet vaccinated, the governor said, “The most meaningful conversation they can have is with their doctor… Discussing with them why it’s important, how it can protect them… They are accustomed to taking treatment advice from their doctor.” The COPCPVAX.com program is designed to “support our doctors, our family practices, our pediatricians in being able to do the outreach that they need to better serve their community to increase the vaccination rate among those who haven’t been vaccinated yet.”

One of the doctors who joined the governor in the press conference, Marc Moss, MD., head of the division of pulmonary sciences and critical care medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and intensivist at UC Hospital, said, “Our state and our country are at an important crossroads regarding this pandemic that, fortunately, has at least one straightforward solution, getting vaccinated. In the intensive care unit we have been caring for the sickest COVID patients as a unified and collaborative team, together with nurses, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists, dietitians, environmental service and other support staff. It has been a privilege to care for these critically ill patients and help support their families in times of crisis… Prior to the availability of vaccines, frontline providers were literally putting their lives on the line, but there was a sense of purpose driven by a common mission in that COVID patients needed our help… We stayed in patients’ rooms and tried to diminish their sense of isolation because their family members were not permitted to visit… Sometimes, we held patients’ hands while they died.”

He continued, “As the struggle to care for COVID patients continued throughout the fall, the availability of an extremely effective and safe vaccine whose development is truly one of the greatest achievements in modern medicine, created a sense of optimism that the pandemic might end… Unfortunately, the pandemic rages on due to inadequate vaccine rates… Some elective surgeries are being postponed again to free up hospital beds and medical personnel to care for COVID patients. As the virus continues to mutate and surge, vaccinated immunocompromised patients are contracting COVID because, inherently, they are unable to mount a sufficient immune response.” 

Dr. Moss turned to the impact on his profession, saying that COVID has “accelerated the parallel pandemic of psychological distress on health care professionals,” pointing to his observation that, “the new wave of COVID-19 in predominantly unvaccinated people may ultimately break the souls of my colleagues.” He noted recent studies that showed that, “One out of three front-line health care workers is considering leaving their profession in the near future.” Stated plainly, Dr. Moss said, “It is not an individual rights issue, but a public health issue. The virus is the enemy… People who remain unvaccinated not only put themselves at risk but their families, children, friends, neighbors, and other members of your community… This pandemic has caused enough economic loss, sadness, tragedy and far too many deaths… We urge you to get vaccinated. No one else needs to die from this preventable disease.”

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