TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Local health leaders in Kansas said while rolling out vaccines is the answer to keeping their communities safe, the coronavirus pandemic has presented its own set of struggles that may make it harder to get vaccines to the public.
“You are trying to vaccinate a large number of people in a very short amount of time,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System. “We never have this problem with influenza vaccination, with pneumonia vaccination. This is just a unique circumstance.”
Some reports are showing Kansas is far behind other states in getting the first doses of the vaccine rolled out.
Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the Kansas Governor’s Office, clarified the state’s vaccine plans back in early December, saying the following in an email: “150,000 Kansans are expected to receive a single dose of the vaccine by the end of December.”
However, Fitzgerald warned the numbers are just estimates, as the state was in the early stages of vaccine production and deployment.
But, a New York Times report shows that Kansas is far behind in meeting this goal.
According to the report, the state’s been allocated 164,900 shots. So far, 114,850 first doses have been distributed around the state, and only 12,164 shots have been given out.
That means about 10% of the shots that have been distributed, have been given. This is much lower than the state’s neighbors, like Missouri, which, according to the report, have given out about 31% of its distributed shots.
Right now, Kansas is giving shots to high-risk healthcare workers and people living and working in nursing homes first. But, Kansans may see some differences county to county, as Governor Laura Kelly noted during a press conference on Wednesday.
“Right after that, we broadened it out to all healthcare providers,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “And that includes in your nursing homes, in your prisons, EMTs, so every county may be doing it just a little bit differently.”
The governor said the process follows the phases of priority outlined in the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
While things aren’t moving quickly quite yet, medical experts anticipate picking up speed as the state moves through the phases of its distribution plan, and vaccines become available to the general public.
“Once they’re able to be distributed to those other places, such as pharmacies, commercial pharmacies, other small family medicine or internal medicine clinics, I think that will help improve,” Dr. Hawkinson said.
As 2020 ends, some medical experts said it could take years before the country is able to reach herd immunity, which would require vaccinating about 80% of the population.
According to Kansas health leaders, it all depends on how quickly people are vaccinated.
“A higher percent of the population that’s vaccinated, you’re going to have a higher chance that less and less people will get ill from this disease and overwhelm our healthcare system,” Dr. Hawkinson said.
In the meantime, medical experts and state officials said they’re focused on controlling the spread of the virus through safety protocols, like social distancing and practicing proper hygiene.