Tech glitches, short supply leave metro residents seeking COVID-19 vaccine frustrated

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY METRO — Thousands in the metro are now signing up to get in line for the COVID-19 vaccine. Both Missouri and Kansas signaling phase two vaccinations for those 65 and older could start as early as this week. 

But the process has been heavy with a combination of anticipation and frustrations.

This survey to express interest in getting the vaccine in Johnson County, Kan. has been filled out by more than 80,000 since Friday afternoon

But technical glitches and continued lack of vaccine supply are making it tough to move this process along.

Gary Schmimel, 75, has emphysema and COPD.  He’s hooked to oxygen and has been hunkered down with his wife nearly a year trying to avoid COVID-19. 
 
“It’s kind of getting old now. I’m kind of getting excited about the vaccine,” Schimmel said.
 
Even though Missouri’s now in Phase 1B, he’s still not sure when he’ll get it. He signed up on Platte County’s survey, but the health department admits right now–it has zero doses to give. 

“It’d be freedom for us. Really it’ll be like taking the bars of the windows, you can get out and do something,” Schimmel said.
 
Carol Garton feels those frustrations, too. Her dad died suddenly last summer and she’s worried about her 87-year-old mom being exposed to the virus. 
 
“When I had to hug her and hold her up, I was thinking what if I’m asymptomatic? What if I’m giving my mother COVID right now and don’t even know it? Which made that even so much harder to comfort her in losing her spouse of 67 years,” Garton said.
 
Her mom stays in a Mission independent living facility, which didn’t get vaccines through the federal program for nursing homes. Carol was relieved when Johnson County launched a vaccine survey for residents, but the system kept crashing. 

It’s fixed now, but she’s frustrated people she believes are less high-risk around the region are getting the vaccine before elderly. 
 
“For my mother, it’s about life and death, and when I saw that, I was like this is not right, this is not equitable,” Garton said.
 
The Johnson County health department’s only gotten 5,000 doses so far and worked with The University of Kansas Health System and Children’s Mercy Hospital to get more.
 
“Johnson County is more than 20% of the population of Kansas and I think distribution has to reflect that. So far it has not,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director.
 
The county still needs 10,000 doses to finish health worker shots and says the current rate of shipments just won’t cut it to move into vaccinating seniors. 
 
“Be patient. Don’t give up. Eventually the vaccine will be here. We’re all working toward the same goal,” said Dr. Areola.

Johnson County is hoping to be ready for phase two, which includes those 65+ and many essential workers. If you fill out the survey, you’ll get notified when you’re eligible to make an appointment.  The system is not first-come, first-served right now, so be patient in filling it out. 

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