State limits vaccine access, disputes low vaccination numbers

By Adam Strunk

If your job isn’t health-care related, don’t expect COVID-19 vaccine access this month.

Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said that the state health department has been clear in directions as to where vaccines should be administered for the month.

“We are required to go with health care associated workers,” she said. “We are reaching out to all health care associated workers. The state has said we will reach out to all health are associated workers for the month of January. That is their plan.”

Three parties, the Harvey County Health Department, NMC Health (Newton Medical Center) and Health Ministries initially received vaccine from the state to administer.

Health Ministries, a federally qualified health-care center received 800 doses. The organization vaccinated staff and ran a clinic Saturday, where they distributed 250 doses to health care workers.

CEO Matt Schmidt said his organization distributed vaccinations following the specific instructions of the state health department to health care and health care related workers.

“At this point we have not exhausted our allotment [of vaccines],” he said.

Redington said, on her office’s part, it had distributed all of the 200 Moderna vaccine allotment received at the end of December.

Redington said NMC Health (Newton Medical Center) had distributed 364 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to staff. The hospital only received 300 doses, but the Pfizer company vials contained enough vaccine that the hospital was able to eke an additional 64 doses out of it allotment.

The state health department, as well as the governor’s office, have been on the defensive this week after a Centers for Disease Control report showed Kansas ranking last in the U.S. for vaccine distribution.

The organization listed that 690 Kansans out of every 100,000 had been vaccinated a rate just behind Mississippi. Colorado had reached 1,900, Nebraska 1,800, and Oklahoma and Missouri 1,500 per 100,000.

In response to the report, Governor Laura Kelly told the Kansas Reflector that the state had distributed more vaccine than numbers showed and that the low number was because people in the state hadn’t been trained on how to record vaccinations into data systems.

We’ve got people who right now are focused on getting vaccinations in people’s arms,” Kelly said. “Their sidelight is trying to get that data into the system. I think what we’ve done is just not pull them away from people to train them. We’re working on the reporting and getting the data into systems so that those numbers will change.”

Locally, for county-distributed vaccines that are known about in Harvey County, at least 2,314 per 100,000 had been vaccinated. That number doesn’t count those vaccinated in retirement facilities.

Both Schowalter Villa and Kansas Christian Home had received vaccinations through a federal partnership with Walgreens that serves those in retirement homes. Kidron-Bethel was scheduled Jan. 8. Presbyterian Manor was scheduled for vaccination on Jan. 12.

Asbury Park reported that it had yet to be communicated with about a vaccination date.

Just how many people meet the state’s vaccination standards for January remains a question mark. Redington said she didn’t have data for the amount of people in health-care-related jobs in county, but the state had sent out surveys on the subject.

Harvey County Now put in a request for that information from the state but had not heard back as of press time. In fairness, that request went out Tuesday after the health department press conference, and the state had little time to answer it. We’ll follow up.

Redington said she had not received any concrete information on when Harvey County would get more vaccines or how many that would be.

She said the state informed her office that it had the chance to put in vaccine requests each Thursday, and Harvey County could “maybe” get some vaccines in the next week, though that was not for certain.

“We’re looking forward to hearing how much they’re able to order if they are actually going to share that number. We will learn if we get some next week. The word was maybe for the health departments. We specifically asked would we get more vaccine in the next week, and they said ‘maybe’ for health departments. She added that the state said it had reserved second doses for anyone who had received their first dose.

As for the people in Harvey County who have been able to get the vaccine, Redington said so far her office has heard no complaints of severe side effects but often of soreness at the spot of the injection.

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