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Vaccine surfing? Don’t try it at Sedgwick County’s COVID vaccination station

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Sedgwick County’s COVID-19 vaccination station at Intrust Bank Arena has moved to the covered up hockey ice floor opening up a lot more space so people can wait inside during the frigid temperatures. The shots were previously being given in the concourse with an outdoor overflow. (photo by Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle, February 9, 2021)

WICHITA, Kan. (The Wichita Eagle) — It’s called “vaccine surfing” — hanging out around a COVID-19 vaccination center at the end of the day, hoping to get a shot from the leftovers.

But it won’t work at Sedgwick County’s vaccination stations, a top county official said Tuesday.

While Sedgwick County is committed to not wasting any doses of the precious vaccine, its medical personnel won’t give the jab to just anybody to get rid of spare doses, said Tim Kaufman, deputy county manager.

If there are leftover doses at the end of the day, the county dispenses them mainly to public-safety workers, who are eligible for vaccination within state guidelines and who can be quickly called to the vaccination center, Kaufman said.

Each vial of vaccine contains six shots, so five or fewer doses is the maximum that could be available when the appointments end on any given day, Kaufman said.

There is no “standby list” for the general public, he said. “I want to make sure people don’t waste any time trying to call in for that purpose.”

Kaufman reported that so far, Sedgwick County has distributed a total of 24,219 shots — 16,924 first doses that confer 50%-70% immunity to the coronavirus, and 7,295 second doses that raise the immunity level to 90%-plus.

The county’s receiving about 7,000 doses a week.

One of the biggest challenges right now is the icy weather.

People socially-distanced at Sedgwick County vaccine center in INTRUST Bank Arena
(photo by Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle)

Kaufman said with daily highs in the teens, it’s not practical to have people waiting in line outside the main vaccination center at Intrust Bank Arena — especially the 75-and-older people who are making up most of the current vaccination population.

The shots were being given in the concourse of the Intrust, but the staff has now covered up the hockey ice floor, opening up a lot more space so people can wait inside, out of the elements, he said.

The bitter cold is also affecting a drive-through vaccination site at the Wichita Transit bus barn.

“We close the door so the wind’s not blowing, but it’s still 13-15 degrees,” Kaufman said.

The county is now staggering drive-through appointments so the employees giving the shots can work for an hour and then get an hour to go into the offices and warm up.

With the temperatures due to drop into single-digit highs later this week, they may have to temporarily shut down the site, Kaufman said.

However, County Manager Tom Stolz said closing the drive-through — which serves frail elderly people who can’t stand in line at the arena — would be a last resort and could even touch off a staff revolt among the employees who are giving the shots in the freezing cold.

“For us to shut down the drive-through, I don’t think was an option for them, because they know this need is out there,” Stolz said. “We’ll do the best we can to keep them safe and to alternate, but I think the staff sees the need that this population wants and needs this vaccine.”

This story was originally published by The Wichita Eagle and is published here as part of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of seven media companies, including KSNW-TV.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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