Some university faculty, staff may now be vaccinated in Phase 2 of state COVID-19 guidance
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo
Updated at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday
Qualifying faculty and staff members from Douglas County universities will soon be included in Phase 2 vaccine distribution, according to the county health department.
George Diepenbrock, spokesperson for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, said that the health department recently received guidance from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that local public health departments may determine whether to include university employees under Phase 2.
Faculty and staff members who fall under the critical worker criteria will be included in the county’s Phase 2 distribution plan, Diepenbrock said. Critical workers are employees who provide critical services and are at higher risk of being infected because their jobs require close contact with a large number of individuals and they are not able to work remotely.
Diepenbrock said Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health was still working with local universities to determine how many eligible employees they have, and that those workers would be included in the proportional share currently covering education workers in the county.
As the Journal-World has reported, as part of the county’s Phase 2 vaccine distribution plan, doses are split in the following manner: 40% go to residents ages 65 and older, 25% go to the education sector, 15% go to workers in the food service industry, 10% go to essential workers in the local government and 10% go to workers critical to the functioning of the community. Additionally, between 50 and 150 doses are distributed to people in congregate care settings each week.
Douglas Girod, chancellor at the University of Kansas, wrote in a Tuesday morning message that the university has been working closely with local public health partners.
“Together, we will determine where our employees fit into county prioritization plans and how available vaccine would be distributed to them,” Girod wrote.
Because it is up to local public health authorities to determine whether higher education faculty and staff should be included in Phase 2, “vaccine distribution could look different for our different campuses,” Girod wrote. He said that KU was beginning to identify its employees who fit the new KDHE guidance and that the university would share more information as it became available.
Even with the updated guidance, however, Girod said KU faculty and staff members should continue to pursue vaccines by filling out the county’s vaccine interest form with their KU email addresses. Girod also said he was encouraged by the updated guidance. Though K-12 employees had been included in the state’s phased distribution plan, higher education had previously been left out.
“As you know, we have been advocating for our employees to receive vaccine priority with policymakers in Topeka and local health officials since this process began,” Girod wrote. “We are pleased that this new guidance is a step toward including more university employees in earlier priority groups, and we’ll continue our advocacy efforts to include as many of our employees in future vaccination efforts as soon as possible.”