NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced the National Guard will reduce its role in the COVID-19 vaccination process. It comes as the Kansas City metro’s largest mass vaccine clinic closes up for good.
Operation Safe, located at Cerner’s headquarters in North Kansas City, has proven to be a powerful partnership that’s ending with nearly 100,000 vaccine doses administered. In fact, its last day on Thursday was its busiest clinic ever, with 5,600 shots in arms.
But the challenge as big vaccine sites like this close up is that there’s still a long way to go to reach the lofty goal of herd immunity.
As the last cars rolled through Operation Safe’s site in the Northland, Dale Brundage left grateful to be fully vaccinated. His mom and brother have both been hit hard with COVID-19.
“Absolutely devastating, torture, watching her suffer day after day, watching my brother suffer,” Brundage said. “My mom spent 17 days in the hospital from it. She’s out, getting stronger, but she’s still got a long road ahead.”
It’s stories like that pushing Operation Safe’s mission to protect the community. Since it opened Feb. 4, it’s held 32 clinics at Cerner, in partnership with Clay County Public Health, Liberty and North Kansas City Hospitals, vaccinating 97,000 Missourians.
That’s 19% of everyone vaccinated so far in Kansas City and nearly 3% of all Missouri recipients.
“It’s just been a wonderful experience for our staff in being able to help the community, help people get back to a normal way of life and getting vaccinations in people’s arms,” said David Fees, Liberty Hospital president and CEO.
At its peak, the clinic was giving shots to 548 patients an hour, reaching those ages 16 to 102.
As Operation Safe now declares “mission complete,” work to reach President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of Americans getting at least one dose by July 4 continues.
“The Clay County Public Health Center is continuing to do vaccinations,” said Gary Zaborac, Clay County Public Health director. “We also have on our website list you can go to and pull down all available opportunities across the metro area. Also, we’re hopeful that physician practices across the metro, including Clay County, will be able to vaccinate their patients as well.”
“It’s very easy. I didn’t have any reaction to the first one. It’s quick and painless. It’s for the greater good. Just do it,” Brundage said.
If you’re still looking to get a vaccine in the Northland, the state is offering a drive-thru clinic Friday at Worlds of Fun. You can book an appointment online through the state’s vaccine navigator.
In Kansas, the strategy to reach the unvaccinated is changing, too. Wyandotte County is seeing low traffic at its large clinics, but it anticipates keeping them open a couple more months as younger children become eligible to get the shot.
It’s also now increasing mobile vaccine efforts with flexible schedules.
“We also want to get to those folks who just trust other places in the community a little more than they might trust us. So whether that’s a church or place of employment, those folks that feel more comfortable someplace else,” said Juliann Van Liew, Unified Government Public Health director.
If you have a church or business in Wyandotte County that would like a visit from the mobile vaccine clinic, there’s a simple form you can fill out online to request it.
Johnson County is still giving almost 10,000 shots a week at a Lenexa warehouse. But it’s also planning to add smaller community clinics so residents don’t have to leave their neighborhood to find a dose.
“We are going to continue to run our mass vaccination clinics while we are doing all of these community clinics. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.