Feb 22, 2021 - News
Denver breaks from Colorado's COVID-19 vaccine plan
Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks from behind podium
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.

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