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COVID-19 vaccinations move to phase two

Chad Frey and Deanna Bonn
Butler County Times Gazette
The state, and Butler County, are moving to Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccinations, even the face of a short supply of vaccine doses available.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has announced this week the state a move to Phase 2 for COVID-19 vaccination, starting  Jan. 21.

“After moving quickly to vaccinate close to 130,000 frontline health care workers and Kansas seniors, my administration has worked with local health departments and providers to prepare to move Kansas into Phase 2,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “While it’s important to remember that the rate of vaccinations will be dependent on the amount we receive from the federal government, we use every tool available to make vaccine delivery transparent, efficient, and fast in order to reach as many Kansans as possible.”

The Butler County Health Department, in turn, announced it will complete Phase 1 on that date and transition to Phase 2 on Jan. 25. The Butler County COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee has determined the first three priority groups for Phase 2 will be First Responders, K-12 Staff and individuals 65 years and older.

Butler County health Department Director, Jamie Downs, left, gives an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution while LEPC chair, Pam Dunham, center, and Information Coordinator and Butler County Emergency Management Director Keri Korthals take notes.

Members of the Butler County Local Area Planning Committee (LEPC) gathered for their quarterly meeting on January 21, 2021. The gathering is a working lunch that brings members from across Butler County and from various industries within the emergency response sector.

During the meeting, Jamie Downs, Director of Butler County Health Department, gave a holistic picture of the state of COVID-19 vaccine distributions in Butler County, which at that time was in Phase 1. With a record number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continuing to climb, vaccines are being distributed. Research is ongoing, said Downs, but the vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, report rates of 95% effectiveness.

Statewide, 1 million Kansans are in Phase 2. According to the office of the governor,  the next weekly supply of vaccine from the federal government contains approximately 45,000 new first doses — meaning not everyone in Phase 2 will be able to receive their vaccine immediately. Each county, through local health departments, will decide how their limited supply of the doses will be allocated by population groups. 

In Butler County, each of the identified groups for Phase 2 will have a designated day to receive a vaccination. All vaccination clinics will be by appointment only at the Butler County Community Building located at 206 Griffith, El Dorado. Vaccine sign-up will be completed online. The sign-up link will be located on the COVID-19 Vaccine page on the Butler County website (www.bucoks.com.)

The COVID-19 Vaccine page will be accessible on Jan. 25. Updates pertaining to Butler County’s vaccination process will be posted on the Butler County Kansas Health Department’s Facebook page, on the Butler County website on the COVID-19 Resource Page and the COVID-19 Vaccine Page.

In a release, the Butler County Health Department encouraged everyone to work together as a community to make sure everyone has the opportunity to receive the vaccine by checking on those you know who may not have access to the internet, make a plan to notify them and help them register for the vaccine.

To assist vaccine distribution efforts, Governor Kelly also announced today the appointment of Marci Nielsen, PhD, MPH to Chief Advisor for COVID-19 Coordination and Seth Konkel to the role of Special Advisor for COVID-19 Vaccination.

“With significant experience in public health and operations between them, Marci and Seth will be valuable sources of support to my team and the team at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as vaccine supply increases,” Governor Kelly said. “I am pleased to have them on board.”

Phase 2 Guidelines from KDHE:

Persons aged 65 and older

High-contact critical workers necessary to maintain systems, assets, and activities that are vital to the state security, the economy or public health, or who interact with large numbers of contacts and job-related COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19 risk is associated with the likelihood of infecting oneself or spreading the virus. Factors that increase risk include proximity, type of contact, duration of contacts and challenges to implement protective measures. This includes:        

     o Firefighters, police officers, first responders, and correction officers         

     o Grocery store workers and food services          

     o K-12 and childcare workers, including teachers, custodians, drivers, &

        other staff          

     o Food processing, including meat processing plants          

     o Large-scale aviation manufacturing plants          

     o Transportation workers          

     o Workers in retail, agriculture, supply of critical services or materials for COVID-19 response, the U.S. Postal Service, and Department of motor vehicles

Those living or working in licensed congregate settings and other special care or congregate environments where social distancing is not possible, including:

     o Homeless shelters          

     o Congregate childcare institutions          

     o Emergency shelters or safe houses          

     o Corrections facilities          

     o Behavioral health institutions