Nurses in Coffey County refuse to give COVID-19 vaccine

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An ampoule Moderna vaccine against the COVID-19 disease, stand on the table at the Diakonie Hospital “DIAKO” vaccination ward in Bremen, Germany, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Besides the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Moderna is the second corona vaccine approved in the European Union. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP)

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four nurses at a rural health department in Kansas are refusing to administer any COVID-19 vaccines, citing the fast development and production of the shots.

Coffey County Public Health Administrator Lindsay Payer said the nurses made their own decisions and expressed their concerns one by one. She called the vaccine documents concerning.

“I strongly feel that if people want this vaccine, they should receive it. Absolutely,” Payer said. “But just like it’s their choice to receive it or not, I feel like it should also be my choice to give it or not.”

None of the nurses, including Payer, feel “comfortable” administering a vaccine that has gone through a speedy testing process with new technology, the Kansas City Star reported.

Studies involving tens of thousands of people found that the two vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S. are nearly 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness. The studies discovered no major safety problems, although the vaccines do come with a caution about rare, serious allergic reactions. That’s why people are supposed to be observed for 15 minutes after the injection, so any adverse reactions can be treated promptly.

But because very rare side effects sometimes can’t be detected until vaccines are given to millions of people, multiple systems now are tracking recipients’ health so authorities can rapidly investigate any reported problems and determine if they’re related to the shots. So far, the vaccines have been given to more than 10 million people in the U.S. with no additional warnings issued.

“Vaccination of Kansans is critical to reach the end of this pandemic,” Kristi Zears, a spokeswoman with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in an email. “We are not aware of any other health departments who have expressed concerns regarding the vaccine and would point them to the safety data.”

The Coffey County Health Department posted on its Facebook page Friday that it had received a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines a day earlier and was able to safely vaccinate 36 health care workers. It did not mention who administered the shots.

“I would suggest there are parts of the state that are definitely embracing the vaccine,” said Linda MowBray, president of the Kansas Health Care Association, a nursing home advocacy group. “But they also embrace social distancing, masks and whatnot. There are still parts of the state denying this is a crisis.”

Separately, a clerk working for the Kansas Senate has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the chamber to test all staff involved in the annual 90-day legislative session that convened last week.

Senate President Ty Masterson’s office informed senators of the positive test in an email Monday evening. It urged senators to avoid coming to the chamber Tuesday and Wednesday and said all would be marked as present Tuesday, with only housekeeping business Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The circumstances surrounding the positive test points to the person’s exposure to the virus coming from outside the State Capitol,” Pirner said in an email to The Associated Press. “Due to the social distancing measures in place and the limited amount of time this clerk was in the building, we do not believe the clerk posed any threat to anyone else.”

But Masterson and other GOP senators have faced criticism for not consistently wearing masks in the building, and a few Republican lawmakers haven’t been seen masked in public. Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic prompted lawmakers to cut short their 2020 session, and some fear an outbreak at the Statehouse is all but inevitable.

“Everyone wearing masks would help mitigate that,” said Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat.

At least seven Kansas legislators, including Masterson, an Andover Republican, and House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, have had COVID-19. The Legislature spent $3 million to upgrade its technology to allow for live audio and video streaming of its meetings and remote participation by lawmakers, lobbyists and others.

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