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Gov. Jared Polis, front, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, left, announce COVID-19 restrictions in November. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver is preparing to play a bigger role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and is setting its own priority list rather than follow the dictates from Gov. Jared Polis.

The big picture: Mayors across the country are demanding a direct supply of the vaccine, which currently is being allocated through states. Hancock raised the issue on a recent call with Vice President Kamala Harris and again in a letter Thursday to the Biden administration.

The city's goal is to reach populations hit hard by the pandemic, including racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and the homeless, as well as other groups having trouble accessing the vaccine.

"We have a better perspective on the challenges that those communities are [facing] every day ... and we know for a fact they are being overlooked," Hancock told Axios.

Why it matters: Hancock's push represents the most high-profile challenge to Polis' pandemic response and comes after weeks of feuding between the two Democrats.

  • He's not alone: Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has argued his city is being shortchanged, too.
  • Hancock is careful to not directly criticize Polis. When it comes to the difference in the vaccine priorities, he said that "neither one is wrong — we just need to dig a little deeper with regards to our demographics."

The other side: Polis doesn't want to relinquish control. He recently said Denver's plan to inoculate the homeless would "cost lives" and take vaccines from people over age 70, The Denver Post reports.

What to watch: The first of four new sites managed by Denver Health opened Thursday in Montbello, a historically underserved neighborhood predominantly home to people of color. The other three are planned for similar communities in northeast, west and south Denver.

Go deeper

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

32 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).