KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It seems as if it happened almost overnight, the shift from a COVID-19 vaccine shortage to a vaccine surpluss. Vaccine administrators are now scrambling to fill appointments.
Some Kansas counties are dropping residence restrictions and many area hospitals are offering vaccines to non-patients.
The University of Kansas Health System has roughly 8,000 open appointments this week and expects to get more vaccine Monday.
“My mom actually set this up for me,” said 18-year-old Olathe South senior Alex Bartlet.
She got her vaccine at Kansas Health System Thursday, even though she is not a patient. So did Austin Meyers.
“It is exciting seeing all of these people walking through the doors getting their vaccines today,” Meyers said.
On the KU Health System video conference Thursday morning, Dr. Steven Stites addressed Kansas’ move into Phase 5,
“In Kansas, you don’t have to worry about where you live. you can go anywhere and get a vaccination in Kansas,” he said.
Kansas COVID Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Marci Nielson added an addendum to Stites’ statement.
“There should be a comma after that statement that says, ‘according to the county’s preferences or to the county’s guidelines.’”
While the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is encouraging counties to move into phase five and open their vaccine clinics to all Kansans 16 and older, the state allows counties to have the final say according to what is best for its population.
In a statement, Johnson County Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola told FOX4 that the County will continue only vaccinating people who live or work in Johnson County.
“With a population of over 600,000, Johnson County still has a long way to go to get eligible people vaccinated,” Areola said.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, which had nearly 2,000 open appointments at its last vaccine clinic sent a statement that said, “The KDHE has said not to turn anyone away. Right now we are at a point where we ask anyone in the public 16 and older to get a vaccine, as appointments are available each week.”
Franklin County loosened its requirements last week and Shawnee County has never denied anyone outside its borders a vaccine.
“And now part of creating demand is making sure that folks feel comfortable getting vaccinated,” Nielsen said. “So, we need to be in a position where we’re answering their questions about safety about how well the vaccine works”.
Nielsen said the State of Kansas is shifting its focus to educating people who are vaccine hesitant about the safety of the vaccine and how well it works.