Harvey County continues COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Hesston Fire/EMS Chief Russ Buller rolls up his sleeve to receive his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Harvey County Health Department on Dec. 22.

Last week, the Harvey County Health Department and Health Ministries launched a call center for scheduling appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations in response to swamped phone lines at the health department. 

The demand for vaccine far outpaces the supply, and the demand continues.

"We have scheduled now, at least the 675 vaccines that we know are coming for our seniors," said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. "We have started our waiting list and we have rolled out an online version in both English and Spanish."

As of Tuesday morning, there were more than 1,400 people on a waiting list — and the calls continued to come. Of those on the waiting list, nearly 10% were not county residents. 

The call center operates from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at 316-836-4990.

The department has added several volunteers to the support staff — and received assistance from other county departments as it launched its designated phone line and the internet-based waiting list. Those assisting phone callers are now logging those callers into the same website, which time-stamps every submission. 

"I want to give a shout out to our Department on Aging, our treasurer's office and register of deeds as well as administrator (Anthony) Swartzendruber in assisting to get us some staff as we rolled out the phone scheduling system," Redington said. "... We had staff for those departments assisting as well as health department staff."

The waiting list, hotline and website are for those older than 65 who want to receive the vaccine — an age group that is included in the current Phase 2 of vaccine rollout by the state of Kansas. 

Statewide, about 1 million Kansans are included in Phase 2.

Those who were part of Phase 1 in Harvey County have now recieved their second shot, completing the vaccination process. 

"We have  no influence into how much (vaccine) we are getting. The state, at this point in time, gets 1% of the nation's amount of vaccine and (KDHE) has a formula as to how that gets down to the counties," Redington said. 

KDHE notifies the health department "late in the week" of the next shipment of vaccine doses. 

That does not include what is happening on the national level pharmacy with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, which are designated to assist with vaccinations at long-term care facilities. 

"The state does not even see those vaccines," Redington said. "Those go from the federal government straight to those providers. That is, at this time, all going to long-term care. That has not been any open public distribution for those vaccines. Please don't bombard our poor Walgreens, they are still trying to get our long-term care (facilities) done."

County staff offered an estimate that 30% of Harvey County falls into Phase 2, which would be roughly 11,000 people.

Case numbers for the county are trending downward, with 85 active cases as of Tuesday, dropping from 159 last week. In additions, hospitalizations are down to four. The county death toll stands at 38. 

"It is good to see our numbers coming down and we are working on that," Redington said. "Those reflect, if you look back at our numbers, that we had increases over the holidays and increases after the holidays. Remember that gatherings are still restricted to 10 at this time. The task force will be looking at that."