Douglas County announces it will start vaccinating people 65 and older; appointments for first clinic fill up in minutes
photo by: Associated Press
Douglas County now has a date for Phase II COVID vaccinations to begin, but it also has far more people eager to get the vaccine than it has doses currently.
That became evident early Wednesday evening. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced a little after 6 p.m. Wednesday that it would hold its first mass vaccination event for people 65 and older on Jan. 29 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. But health leaders said they expected to only have 500 doses of the vaccine available for the appointment-only vaccination clinic.
Within a half-hour of making the announcement, all 500 appointments for the Jan. 29 event were filled, according to health department spokesman George Diepenbrock. He said the health department will make an announcement when future times are available. Whether additional times will become available on Jan. 29 depends on whether the county receives more vaccine doses than currently expected. Otherwise, future vaccination opportunities will come on other days that haven’t yet been determined.
The process of vaccinating people 65 and older will take a significant amount of time, Dan Partridge, director of of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, said in a press release.
“This is all dependent on the availability of doses of the vaccine,” Partridge said. “Given the large population who would qualify under Phase 2, we expect it will take several weeks to vaccinate everyone in this phase, so we continue to ask for patience from our community members. That said, we are excited to make progress on vaccinating those health care workers and others who qualify under Phase 1 and proceed into Phase 2, including to begin to vaccinate those 65 and older who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Douglas County announced it was moving to Phase II of the vaccination program shortly after Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday afternoon provided authorization for the Phase II program to begin in the state. The Journal-World earlier Wednesday reported such an announcement was imminent, and local health officials were busy finalizing mass vaccinations plans.
But the Wednesday evening announcement by Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health shed new light on which groups in Phase II will get the vaccine first. The state’s Phase II plan makes many groups of people eligible for the vaccine, including police officers, grocery store workers, K-12 teachers and school staff, postal carriers, certain types of retail workers and several other categories. Douglas County officials, though, are choosing to first focus on people 65 years and older.
“Because residents 65 and older are more likely to experience higher-risk complications of COVID-19, we are starting with vaccinating this group in Phase 2 in our community,” Charlie Bryan, chair of the Vaccination Planning Unit of the county’s Unified Command structure, said in a press release.
It is unclear when other members of Phase II should expect to start receiving vaccines in Douglas County. What is known is that there are tens of thousands of residents 65 and older to vaccinate.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital, for instance, announced earlier on Wednesday that it had identified 16,000 people who had been patients at LMH who are 65 and older. LMH is developing two rapid response teams comprised of 20 people each to aid in vaccinations. Members of those teams will be prepared to drop what they are doing and begin giving vaccines upon new arrivals of vaccine doses.
“That will allow us to be a little more nimble and act quickly when doses arrive,” Brian Bradfield, associate vice president of ancillary services for LMH Health, told the hospital’s board of directors at a Wednesday morning meeting.
LMH and local nonprofit Heartland Health are expected to continue to focus on providing vaccinations to health care workers for the immediate future. Once all health care workers have received their first doses, those organization can then start vaccinating the 65 and older population, as doses become available.
Bradfield estimated LMH had about 3,600 health care workers in the county left to vaccinate. He estimated that work would be complete in 7 to 10 days.
People who want to receive an electronic notification from Lawrence-Douglas County Health as soon as new appointment times become available for future vaccination events, can sign up for alerts at dgcoks.org/emalerts.
In other COVID-19 news, Kelly unveiled a new statewide dashboard that provides update information on how many vaccines are being given throughout the state. People can access the dashboard — which will be updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — at kansasvaccine.gov/158/Data.
On Wednesday, the dashboard showed 202,225 doses had been distributed in Kansas, and of those doses, 129,349 had been administered Of those doses that had been administered, 111,632 were first doses, while 17,712 were second doses. According to the dashboard, 3.8% of Kansans have been vaccinated thus far.
Douglas County reported 7,739 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, an increase of 122 cases since Tuesday. The health department noted in its update that the influx in cases on Wednesday was largely due to some providers not sending in positive lab results in a timely manner, and that a majority of those cases are no longer active.
In Douglas County, 6,626 out of the 7,739 cases are inactive or beyond the infectious period, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, meaning 1,113 cases are active.
The county has averaged about 57 new cases per day over the last 14 days, according to a 14-day moving average graph updated weekdays by the health department. The current average of 57.14 new cases per day is down from a high of 80 cases per day in mid-November and up from a recent low of 43 cases per day in mid-December.
Douglas County has a 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate of 665.06 per 100,000 people.
Thirteen patients at Lawrence’s hospital had COVID-19 on Wednesday, the same number as Tuesday. To date, 36 Douglas County residents have died of COVID-19.