Frontline Health Workers Are First Up For Vaccines. But Medical Residents Say They’ve Fallen Through The Cracks

Over the course of the first week of vaccinations, the four hospitals worked to get residents vaccinated sooner. Zimmer said in an email that as of Dec. 19, at least 1,134 residents had received invitations. 

“It’s been kind of chaotic and constantly changing and honestly hard to get clear information about the vaccine scheduling,” said a senior resident who did get a vaccination. “I was scheduled for the end of December, but they’ve been able to open up more spots it seems so I was able to reschedule.” 

Hospitals in Colorado followed federal guidelines for vaccine distribution. In the first phase, 1A, those with the most frequent or direct contact with COVID-19 patients were to be vaccinated. Most residents meet that criteria. Then 1B, those who have less frequent or indirect contact with COVID-19 patients, and then phase 2, all other hospital employees. 

Confusion Over Invitations, Scheduling

When the university changed its initial vaccination plans, it was met with technical difficulties. Zimmer confirmed that some residents did not receive invitations to schedule a vaccination appointment. 

“While there have been some delays caused by individuals who needed to create an account or who did not check their messages, some residents received vaccination invitations on the first day we sent out messages,” Dan Weaver, vice president of communications at UCHealth wrote in an email statement. “More messages were sent out to residents and all our other staff and providers last week and this week as we have had more available appointments for vaccinations.”

He said UCHealth has prioritized residents and has invited all residents and fellows who are rotating at UCHealth locations in December and January to be vaccinated.

Troubleshooting Across Four Health Systems

The hospitals are allocated vaccines, not the university. Zimmer said this, in combination with residents rotating between hospitals, created an opportunity for technical issues. 

“I think what I would’ve done differently is to have a dry run of a percentage of residents to practice in November for each hospital site,” she said. “What has been hard for us is to troubleshoot across all four health systems.” 

In a statement, Dr. David Brumbaugh, chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, acknowledged “unforeseen technical difficulties in the first 24 hours of scheduling,” but said they were resolved promptly. 

Dr. Heather Young, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Denver Health, said the hospital is working with the medical school to get vaccines to residents as soon as possible.

“Denver Health has worked with CU (Graduate School of Medical Education) to provide timely vaccination to all residents who have expressed interest in receiving the vaccine,” Young said in a statement.

A spokesperson from the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System said residents there are included in the first group of workers to be vaccinated.

“At the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, we include residents in our 1A priority group,” the statement said. “It is our process to make the determination of vaccine priority based on the risk associated with each employee’s assigned working location per CDC and VA guidance.” 

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