Next 300 vaccines directed to teachers, first responders

COVID Vaccine taking place in Harvey County
File Photo. Nurse Emily Newhouse, left, gives a COVID-19 vaccine to Stephanie McCorkle, R.N., at Newton Medical Center. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

The State of Kansas announced it would move into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, and Harvey County followed suit.

That’s good news for the approximate 6,800 residents over the age of 65 in the county who now become eligible for the vaccination. However, it doesn’t appear that they’ll be receiving their vaccines just yet.

In a release, the county said that it anticipates it will receive an initial 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine for Phase 2 of the plan.

Those doses will be directed toward law enforcement, other first responders and K-12 educators,” the release said. 

County director of communications Kyle McCaskey said that the 300 doses the county received from the state wouldn’t completely cover those groups.

For context, Harvey County Economic Development lists the Newton School District as an employer of 800 people.

The demand for vaccine continues to outpace supply,” said Harvey County Health Department Assistant Director Toby Harkins in the release. “Phase 2 can eventually include thousands of people in Harvey County. We are eager to scale up our operations with our partners as soon as more vaccine is in our hands to conduct as many vaccinations as quickly as we can.”

The release said that the health department would work with health care partners to increase coverage for eligible individuals as additional vaccines are received in the county.

A county webpage dedicated to vaccine information said, “The health department does not maintain a waiting list. Appointments will not be scheduled until vaccine is available to be administered. There is no timeline provided for when additional vaccine will be available.”

According to U.S. Census estimates, more than 6,800 of Harvey County’s residents – 19.8 percent – are over 65 and would be eligible for vaccination as part of Phase 2 of the state’s plan.

Those 300 doses are part of the 45,000 doses Gov. Laura Kelly said the state was scheduled to receive this week from the federal government.

A State of Kansas website listed that 202,225 doses had been distributed as of Thursday morning, and 63 percent of those doses had been administered.  Many of those doses are earmarked as the second necessary dose for those participating in Phase 1 of the state vaccination plan.

According to national reporting, while federal plans were to have 20 million vaccines distributed by the end of 2020, as of Jan. 20, only 16.5 million vaccines had been distributed.

The new Biden presidential administration released a plan to administer 100 million vaccine doses in the next 100 days and included using the Defense Production Act to speed up production. The plan also encouraged states to expand vaccination to those over 65 and to high contact essential workers, such as teachers and grocery store employees.

Nationally, more than 400,000 have died of COVID-19, and Jan. 20 marked the deadliest day in the crisis, with more than 4,100 dying on that day from the disease.

In Harvey County, 3,038 residents have contracted the disease, 240 currently have it, 11 are hospitalized with the disease, and it’s been confirmed to have killed 37 residents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 was likely the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for 2020 behind heart disease and cancer.

Reporting by the Wichita Eagle showed the same result for the State of Kansas; 3,575 Kansans had died from the disease as of Jan. 20.

State-level information about vaccinations can be found at www.kansasvaccine.gov. Local information from the Harvey County Health Department can be found at www.harveycounty.com/covid19vaccine.