Kansas making everyone eligible just days after at-risk 16-64 population could seek vaccine

Tracking Coronavirus

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Some at-risk Kansans with priority status to get the COVID-19 vaccine might have more difficulty getting the vaccine than originally anticipated.

Kansas announced Friday it’s moving ahead to the 5th and final phase of its rollout plan, making the COVID-19 vaccine available to everyone 16 and older starting Monday, March 29. The decision is based on anticipated increases in supply.

While it’s good news for many younger, healthy Kansans age 16-64 who were previously ineligible, people in at-risk populations in the same age group will now have to compete with them for the same available time slots. 

Kansas just moved to Phase 3 and 4 on March 22. Jackie Javier had been looking forward to that day when she could finally get the vaccine under Kansas guidelines. There was just one problem.

“I’ve been trying for the last two or three days, looking online trying to get an appointment and there’s no appointments. There’s none,” she said.

But Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Dr. Lee Norman said earlier this week because of increased supply, things were getting better.

“We see where vaccine sites used to take an hour to fill up. Now they are taking 10-11 hours,” he said.

Friday’s somewhat surprising phase advancement was announced on Twitter, where it received immediate criticism. 

“Slow down. There are many 65+ that still need the vaccine. You just made it harder,” Mark Stone tweeted in response to Gov. Laura Kelly.

“You do realize that opening up this free-for-all to get appointments is just going to push down those that more critically need the vaccine,” Daryl Seck wrote.

Johnson County’s Health Director applauded the move, with 75% of everyone 65 and older in the county now having received at least one dose.

“The main reason for setting up the different phases was we just didn’t have enough vaccine. That was meant to just get us started,” Dr. Sanmi Areola said.

In response to Kelly’s announcement, he explained the elderly and people in at risk zip codes will continue to receive priority in Johnson County, but otherwise they’ll go by when people filled out a vaccine interest survey in scheduling appointments, not the original phases.

“If you are in Phase 2 and have not been vaccinated or 3 or 4 and you are saying, ‘Hey we only spent a week on that phase,’ I can understand that. But really the goal is to get people vaccinated,” Areola said.

Wyandotte County announced Friday that, starting Monday, anyone 16 and older can simply walk into one of the health department’s three vaccination clinics to get their shot.

Wyandotte County residents will need to show proof of residency and minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Minors must also be able to verify their age.

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