GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX)- Mesa County over the next week will move into Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but this comes as many local frontline health care workers have not yet been vaccinated.

The director of Mesa County Public Jeff Kuhr says about 40 to 60 percent of frontline health care workers have taken the vaccine so far in Mesa County. This group was designated to take the vaccine first in Phase 1A, to make way for Phase 1B, which includes a vaccine for everyone above 70 years old in Colorado, and other first responders and health care workers who interact with the public, but don’t have as much exposure directly to COVID-19 patients. Jeff Kuhr says this has lead to extra vaccine.

“I think it was surprising to everyone involved,” Kuhr said. “It becomes sort of a challenge because what do you with that vaccine?”

Kuhr adds this doesn’t necessarily mean these frontline healthcare workers won’t get a vaccine, and these numbers could very well go up in the coming weeks.

But Dr. Thomas Tobin, the Chief Medical Officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction says 1200 COVID-19 vaccines have been allocated to the Community Hospital health care group to cover all employees, but only half of them have been taken so far. Tobin says it is not mandatory for frontline health care workers to be vaccinated, and that initial hesitations are understandable.

“Across the nation I know of no entities that have mandated this vaccine,” Tobin said. “This is an unknown because it’s a brand new technology.”

Tobin says he’s taken the vaccine, and hasn’t heard of any bad reactions within the Community Hospital health care group and other health care facilities locally. He hopes more health care workers will decide to get vaccinated, but in the meantime leftover doses will assist Mesa County in Phase 1B.

“We have not used our 1200 doses internally so no we’re taking what’s left and helping the county,” Tobin said.

In Phase 1B, Mesa County Public Health will be in charge of vaccinating members of the public who 70 years old and older, where local hospitals will focus on a second tier of health care workers and first responders.