By Jennifer Dunlay
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a COVID-19 vaccine is the next step needed to get us back to life before the pandemic. Getting there will be no small task. At least 60 to 70 percent of the U.S. population will need to be vaccinated – that’s nearly 225 million people. COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Kansas is coordinated by state and local health officials. How fast those vaccines can get into arms will be determined by how many vaccines the state receives when the first vaccine ships. As more vaccines receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), distribution to more sectors of the population will increase.
Heading into the start of the New Year, the Federal Drug Administration has approved the EUA for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Both vaccines require a two-dose series with the second vaccine needed 21 to 28 days after administration of the first dose.
Results from clinical trials show both vaccines are safe and effective for aging adults.
Kansas adults age 65 and older are expected to be higher on the priority list for the vaccines as they are more at risk for serious complications and hospitalizations if infected with COVID-19. The initial vaccine distribution will be geared towards healthcare providers and long-term care residents and staff, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommendations.
The vaccines will be provided free by the federal government, but the healthcare provider administering a coronavirus vaccine may add a charge for an office visit or a small administration fee.
In Kansas, the first vaccines will be given to healthcare personnel and those who live or work in long-term facilities. This first phase of vaccinations is expected to last through January 2021 or longer.
Vaccine will be delivered to pre-positioned locations equipped for ultra-cold storage throughout Kansas. Due to security reasons, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will not disclose the locations of these facilities. From these locations, vaccine will be distributed broadly to provide vaccine coverage to healthcare workers. As vaccine supplies increase, additional populations will be targeted, with the general population expected by late spring/early summer.
When the vaccine becomes available, state and local health officials will make announcements about when and where to get vaccinated. That information will be posted on the Johnson County coronavirus website at jocogov.org/coronavirus.
Vaccination will be a crucial step to help stop the pandemic and keep our economy and schools open. The more of our population vaccinated, the sooner we can begin to return to life as we knew it.
In the meantime, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment encourages everyone to continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, keep a safe distance from those not in your immediate household and wash hands frequently. These public health practices will not only keep you safe until the vaccine is available but will slow the spread of illness in the community and keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed. More information about the COVID-19 vaccine is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.
Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.