Number of Douglas County residents eligible for vaccine to surge next week; LMH plans 5-day-per-week clinic
photo by: Lauren Fox
At least 11,000 Douglas County residents will become newly eligible for COVID-19 vaccines next week, and LMH Health is working to open a clinic that would provide 2,000 new shots per week for local residents.
Brian Bradfield, associate vice president for ancillary services at LMH, told hospital board members Wednesday morning that Douglas County residents who are in the state’s Phase 3 and Phase 4 categories will become eligible to get the shots as soon as next week. That’s in line with an announcement from state leaders earlier this week, who were responding to a directive from President Joe Biden to speed up the pace of vaccinations nationwide.
Bradfield said 11,000 Douglas County residents who are eligible in Phase 3 and Phase 4 have signed up through the county’s vaccine interest form thus far.
“We envision that number growing,” Bradfield said. “As people start to realize that they qualify, they probably will start putting their information in the vaccination interest form.”
While it won’t be ready next week, LMH does expect to have a new vaccination clinic in operation by the week of April 12. Bradfield said the drive-thru clinic would operate five days per week, eight hours per day at the hospital, 325 Maine St. The clinic would be in addition to other clinics that are happening around the community on select days. Those include mass vaccination clinics that are held twice weekly at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds for people who have qualified through the county’s vaccination sign-up system.
The new LMH clinic would add to that capacity. The primary hurdle in opening the clinic is getting nine full-time staff members hired and trained to operate the new clinic.
“That currently is in progress and the positions are posted,” Bradfield said as part of a Wednesday morning board of trustees meeting for LMH Health.
People who are eligible under Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the state’s vaccination plan include:
• people 16 to 64 years old who have various health conditions, including cancer, Down syndrome, certain heart conditions, diabetes, pregnancy, asthma and a few other conditions.
• people who work in the following occupations: agricultural and food workers; workers performing in-person activities indoors; utility workers; social service and government workers; truck drivers and logistics workers; water and wastewater workers; shelter, housing and finance workers; and information technology and communication workers.
Previously, the vaccinations have largely been limited to people 65 and older, people in long-term care facilities or people working in a narrower range of occupations.
People who want to be notified for Phase 3 or Phase 4 vaccination opportunities should register via the Douglas County vaccine information form, which can be accessed online at dgcoks.org/vaccineinterestform.
Bradfield said the county estimates it has about 4,000 people left to vaccinate in the Phase 2 program. He said the county was working to get many of those people vaccinated this week, but vaccinations for Phase 2 will continue into next week and will take part in conjunction with the Phase 3 and Phase 4 vaccinations.
The number of people left to be vaccinated in Phase 2, however, could be less than the 4,000 estimate. Bradfield said the county hasn’t fully kept track of all residents who have received a shot at auxiliary locations, such as local pharmacies.
The county sent out a survey on Monday to people who have signed up for a vaccine through the county to determine if they have already received the vaccine elsewhere. As those survey results come in, the county will remove those names from the list of people awaiting vaccination appointments.
Bradfield said it may be the case that a number of people 65 and older have received the vaccine through pharmacies or other providers but haven’t yet had their name taken off the county’s waiting list. Bradfield speculated that may be the case because the number of people 65 and older who are responding to the county’s calls for vaccine appointments is dropping.
Recently, the county sent out 1,000 invites and only got 170 people registered. It then sent out an even larger invite list and got only an 11% response rate.
“We are not sure if people are getting vaccinated elsewhere and that is decreasing our response rate, or if we are getting into that age group that is struggling with the online registration process,” Bradfield said.
People who are struggling with the online registration process can reach out to the Douglas County COVID-19 hotline at 785-864-9000 from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
As for the number of vaccine doses the county is receiving from the state, LMH board members were told that number is increasing. Bradfield said the county expects to receive 4,000 doses next week. George Diepenbrock, spokesman for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, said that was up from about 2,300 doses per week a month ago and up slightly from 3,800 doses about a week ago.
“We are hopeful that trend will continue with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine becoming more available,” he said.