County, LMH set to vaccinate 2,000 people today; future COVID events may vaccinate 5,000 per day
photo by: Lauren Fox
Douglas County health leaders expect to provide COVID vaccines to 2,000 people in five hours today, the largest vaccination effort yet in the county, and a bigger 5,000-person event is on the horizon.
Members of the LMH Health board of trustees were told Wednesday that today’s vaccination event at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds marks a new milestone for vaccination efforts in the county. LMH Health is sending more than 25 employees to assist the health department with the vaccination event, which will allow the number of vaccination stations at an event to increase from about a dozen to more than 20.
“We’re super excited about it,” Brian Bradfield, associate vice president of ancillary services for LMH, told the hospital’s board of directors at its monthly meeting.
LMH previously has primarily focused on vaccinating health care workers in the community. Now that those vaccinations are winding down, LMH is shifting its focus to help with the vaccination of people 65 and older, which is the largest group currently being vaccinated in the state’s Phase 2 vaccination plan.
Bradfield told the board that a team of leaders currently was scouting locations in the community to host larger vaccination events. He said the Ambler Student Recreation Center on the University of Kansas campus — across from Allen Fieldhouse — was one of the more promising sites. He said preliminary work indicated that site may be able to handle up to 5,000 vaccinations per day.
Bradfield said the team also was working to develop a system where two types of vaccination events could be held: one that gives only first-dose vaccinations and one that gives only second-dose vaccinations.
The goal is to make the vaccination process more efficient and get more people vaccinated more quickly. Much, however, will depend on the availability of vaccines, Sheryle D’Amico, vice president of physician enterprises for LMH, said.
She said leaders were optimistic that the number of vaccines the state receives from the federal government may double in the next week or so. D’Amico said the hospital, health department and other members of the community’s Unified Command structure were planning for how people could react quickly to an influx of vaccine supply.
“As a community, through Unified Command, we have to be able to be nimble and get those vaccinations into people very quickly — within seven days is the plan,” D’Amico said. “If we get notified that our county is going to get 10,000 vaccinations, we need to be ready to execute on that.”
D’Amico said the large event at the fairgrounds on Wednesday served as a good test of how various local agencies could work together to vaccinate large numbers.
“It is a good opportunity to prepare for something even greater,” D’Amico said.
Hospital leaders also heard several other updates on COVID vaccination efforts. They included:
• Leaders were briefed on how the health department and hospital are working to ensure “underserved or hard-to-reach populations” are getting vaccinated.
Board members were told that when people are selected for vaccinations, 90% of the people on the list are chosen randomly from a pool of people who have signed up and are eligible as part of the Phase II groups. The remaining 10% of people are chosen from names provided by various community and social service organizations that serve people who are in the hard-to reach group.
“To say that these organizations were happy to help would be an understatement,” Erica Hill, LMH’s director of equity, inclusion and diversity, said.
Hill didn’t detail which organizations the hospital used to garner names, but said the team was looking for people who had transportation barriers, internet barriers, lack of social connections, lack of a health care provider or other such issues that may make it difficult to access the current vaccination system.
Hill, a Lawrence school board member who is a longtime LMH employee but only recently was promoted to equity and diversity director, said the grassroots effort to seek out and find people who have a hard time accessing the system should be a model for future efforts.
“People often wonder what is health equity and why it matters,” Hill said. “This is what health equity looks like in action. Actively ensuring everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthy.”
• The hospital and various partners are expected to soon launch a general COVID hotline for people to call and ask questions about the COVID response in the community. D’Amico said the hospital already has set up a call center to make calls to people who have been chosen to get a vaccination and need to make an appointment.
However, she said it became obvious that many community members, even if they haven’t been chosen to receive a vaccination yet, are looking for a place to call and get information.
“The very first day, we had 7,000 phone calls in one day,” D’Amico said. “There’s a great need in the community. The calls are not just about scheduling. There are a lot of general calls. Did I enroll correctly with the health department? How do I know when Phase 3 begins?
D’Amico said the new “community call center” could be operational by the end of this week or sometime next week. No phone number for that center has yet been released.
• Board members were told that the health department is working to improve its notification system related to the vaccination sign-up process. All county residents are being asked to fill out a form expressing their interest in getting a vaccine at dgcoks.org/vaccineinterestform. However, residents have expressed concern that they don’t get any notification that their form has been accepted and their names are now on the list as someone who wants to get a vaccine.
D’Amico said the county and the health department have developed a system where people now will get a notification via email that their name has been added to the list. Karrey Britt, spokeswoman for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, said that system began earlier this month.
She said the county also was working to develop a search function that would allow people to enter their name to determine if it is on the list awaiting a vaccine appointment. That service is expected to launch in the near future.