Kyle Mullica, a state representative who also works as an emergency room nurse, received his first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, saying he hopes to show others that the inoculation is safe and leaving open the possibility of legislative action to ensure it reaches enough people to end the pandemic.
“I trust the science behind this,” the Northglenn Democrat said minutes after receiving the vaccine at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. “I hope that people see that their health care workers are doing this. This is the way that we’re going to get through this — by trusting that science, by getting the vaccine, by getting to a level where we’re all safe.”
Mullica didn’t receive special access to the vaccine because he’s a lawmaker. He has been caring for COVID-19 patients at Presbyterian St. Luke’s since the pandemic reached Colorado in March, which puts him in the first group of health care workers to receive the vaccine this week. He also traveled to Chicago to treat jail inmates there for the disease.
Wednesday was the first day Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center was inoculating its staff. The hospital received 975 doses.
Colorado is expected to receive 46,800 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this week, all of which will go to health care workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients. A shipment of about 96,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected next week, state health officials said. Moderna’s vaccine is widely expected to receive federal approval in the coming days.
As the vaccine arrives in Colorado, state health officials are working to reassure people that it is safe and effective.
Colorado needs to reach at least a 70% COVID-19 vaccination rate to achieve herd immunity and protect those who are unable or refuse to get it. A higher rate would mean better protection.
Polling, however, shows many people are unwilling to get the vaccine. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a $1 million budget to change skeptical Coloradans’ minds.
But Mullica is still hopeful about the future.
“The excitement is overwhelming, to be honest with you,” Mullica said. “Going through the things that we’ve gone through, seeing the harm that has come to our community and to be able to actually see that light at the end of the tunnel — it’s so exciting. It’s been hard. It’s been hard to do this. It’s been hard to see people suffer.”
Mullica has championed legislation at the Colorado Capitol to increase vaccination rates in the state, which are among the lowest in the nation. Last year, the legislature passed a measure driven by Mullica that, starting next year, will require parents who want to exempt their children from school immunization requirements to obtain the signature of a doctor, nurse or pharmacist on a standardized form.
As an alternative to the signed document, parents will also be able to turn in a certificate proving they watched a state-issued online educational video about vaccines.
Asked if he plans to bring more legislation around vaccines given the coronavirus pandemic, Mullica didn’t rule it out.
“I definitely want to see how this goes,” he said. “My goal is to make sure that we protect our community against vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. That’s what we did with the bills that we ran the last two years.”
Mullica said he’s not working on any specific policies. He noted it would be difficult to take action on vaccines outside of school immunization requirements. The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t even approved for people under 16, though clinical trials are underway in kids 12 and up.
But, still, he wants to do everything possible to quash coronavirus.
“If something’s preventable, we need to do everything we can to stop the spread of it,” he said.