With thousands of doses, Kansas health officials take new strategy to get more vaccinated

Tracking Coronavirus

LENEXA, Kan. — Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System have a hefty supply of COVID-19 vaccines they want to get into arms. It’s a far cry from a couple of weeks ago when appointments were filled in minutes and people often had to drive for hours. 

“We have 12,000 vaccines that are crying in a closet. A very cold closet,” Dr. Steven Stites said.

KU Health System has put more than 70,000 vaccines into arms. Currently, they have 12,000 doses waiting to be used. Doctors said that big number is a concern.

“It’s way too many. We need people to get these vaccines. Right now, again we’re only giving the mRNA vaccines; Johnson & Johnson is still on pause,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson said. “We know that these vaccines have a very good efficacy against the variants that are circulating, including the UK variants and the South African variant, as well.”

KU Health System is giving shots to anyone who lives in Kansas. There are three ways to make appointments: log in to MyChart, visit Kansashealthsystem.com/vaccine or call 913-223-3974.

The Johnson County Health Department is also adjusting its approach to get shots in arms. 

The mass vaccination clinic in Lenexa is open to walk-ins Wednesday and Thursday. This is only for people who live or work in Johnson County. Here are the hours:

  • 4-6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 21
  • 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22

It’s a push to break down barriers and get people vaccinated. 

“Our goal is to vaccinate as many of our residents as possible,” said Johnson County Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola.

He said the Lenexa site sees about 3,000 people four days a week. All appointments were booked last week, but Wednesday there was a shift, leaving open slots. 

“I think signs are pointing to having the end of having all the 10,000-11,000 appointments filled,” Areola said.

He said most appointments are taken up, other than Thursday. That’s why they opened the doors to walk-ins. They’ve also extended hours and opened on weekends. 

Areola said we’re now at a time when convenience is key.

“We understand that internet is a challenge for some,” Areola said. “We understand that some, their job just really doesn’t give as much flexibility. So it’s also opportunities for them to get vaccinated.”

Areola expects to see 50% of Johnson County adults vaccinated by the end of April. 

Over the next few days and weeks, there will be a strategy adjustment in the distribution process. 

He said the plan is to size down, but not ditch, the mass vaccination sites, while scaling up small community events they’re already doing, like going into businesses, churches and schools. 

This week, the Shawnee Mission School District held three on-site clinics for students ages 16 and older. They got the shot during the school day.

Staff said students and parents couldn’t be more grateful.

“They were worried about not getting access because families and parents weren’t able to take off work to get their children the vaccine,” SMSD Chief of Student Services Christy Ziegler said. “Also, we have some students where maybe there’s one vehicle that’s shared by the family or they don’t have transportation. This really was peace of mind for them.”

The health department is also working with the Olathe School District to figure out a plan to vaccinate their eligible students who want the shot.

“We are going to scale that up,” Areola said. “You are going to see a lot more smaller clinics popping up in the community in addition to what we’re doing at the Lenexa site.”

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