Kansas vaccination plan prioritizes health care workers

photo by: AP File Photo

In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection. (University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)

Story updated at 1:29 p.m. Wednesday

TOPEKA (AP) — Health care workers and long-term care residents will be among those who will get the coronavirus vaccine first in Kansas, a draft plan shows.

Kansas’ 45-page plan was filed in the past week with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Kansas City Star reported. Other groups that will be prioritized for the initial rounds of vaccinations include people with underlying medical conditions, people 65 and older and essential workers.

Phil Griffin, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment bureau director for disease control and prevention, said the agency will use advisory committees to help determine who should receive the vaccine next. The plan indicates KDHE is taking input from groups representing individuals with disabilities, people of color, children and other demographics.

Griffin said there have been questions about whether states will receive vaccines based on the severity of the virus in their area, but no definitive answers. Kansas is being hard hit at the moment, though conditions could be significantly different months from now.

The state health department reported Wednesday that Kansas had 1,488 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2% that brought the total number of infections reported in the state to 74,456. The department also reported 80 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the Kansas death toll to 952. The state said 55 of the new fatalities stemmed from a review of death certificates.

On Monday, the health department in Norton County reported a coronavirus outbreak killed 10 residents in a nursing home in northwestern Kansas. It said all 62 residents and an unspecified number of employees at the Andbe Home in Norton had tested positive for the virus.

According to data from The COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 15% on Oct. 6 to 19.4% on Tuesday. Only four other states are faring worse.

Some vaccines in development require a second dose, likely taken three weeks to a month after the first. Kansas plans to give every vaccine recipient a card with instructions when they receive their initial dose, its plan says.

The vaccine is free, but recipients or their insurance may be asked to pay a small administrative fee, likely less than $20. No one, however, will be denied a vaccine based on the ability to pay.

The logistics of storing and distributing the vaccine could prove challenging, especially if the vaccine requires ultracold storage. Griffin said a survey of about 100 Kansas hospitals showed that just 10% currently have the capacity for ultracold storage.

But Griffin said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HHS have advised Kansas “to not be focused on purchasing or expanding” ultracold storage capacity. He said vaccines requiring those conditions would be shipped directly from manufacturers in special units that can hold up to 5,000 doses.

The boxes can maintain the required temperature for up to 10 days if strict guidelines about how often they’re opened are followed, Griffin said.

“It is going to be a big lift,” Griffin said of the vaccination effort. “There’s no hesitation in saying that.”

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