By Jennifer Dunlay
The long awaited COVID-19 vaccines began arriving in Johnson County before 2020 ended. Public health workers and EMS/paramedics received the first 1,200 doses. As the weeks passed,
vaccine supply increased only slightly to about 6,000 doses a week with the majority going to health care workers, individuals age 80 and older, law enforcement/first responders, staff at K-12 Johnson County schools, child care providers and staff at the Kansas School for the Deaf.
With the limited number of vaccines being shipped to the state of Kansas, the county is following the vaccine distribution plan developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that prioritizes individuals based on their risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus and/or experiencing a severe disease outcome or death. The plan can be found at kansasvaccine.gov or the county’s COVID-19 website jocogov.org/coronavirus.
Right now, those in Phase 1 and Phase 2 are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas. Those age 65 and older (starting with those age 80+) are among the first Tier in Phase 2 to be vaccinated in Johnson County.
Getting Johnson County’s senior adult population vaccinated, nearly 95,000, is a top priority for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and the Johnson County Board of Health as people in this age group are at highest risk for severe illness, hospitalizations and even death from COVID-19. However, due to the current amount of vaccine being allocated to Johnson County, coupled with the need to provide two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for maximum protection from COVID-19, the health department estimates it will be well into the spring months before everyone age 65 and older is fully vaccinated.
“Every week we are chipping away at getting more and more of the senior population in our county vaccinated,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the health department. “The demand for vaccine right now is far greater than the supply available, so we ask for your continued patience while you wait for us or your health care provider to contact you about scheduling a vaccine appointment.”
If you are interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and you’re eligible in Phase 2, you can add your name to the health department’s vaccine interest list. The county will contact you when appointments become available. You choose how you want to be notified – a phone call, text message or email.
The county is also partnering with KU Med, Olathe Health, Menorah Medical Center, Overland Park Regional, St. Luke’s and AdventHealth to help speed up the process of vaccinating adults 65 and older.
Each week, depending on the allotment from the state, the health department provides vaccines to these health systems so they can vaccinate their patients in this age group. The health department recommends that you also reach out to your health care provider to see if they offer a wait list that you can join. If you are not affiliated with any of these health systems, you can still get vaccinated at one of the health department’s clinics. The vaccine is provided free by the federal government and there is no charge or insurance needed if you are vaccinated at one of the
county’s mass vaccination clinics. Health care providers administering the vaccine may charge your insurance for an office visit or a small administration fee, but you will not be charged for the vaccine.
If you don’t have access to a computer or need assistance getting your name added to the county’s vaccine interest list, scheduling a vaccine appointment or you would like more information about the county’s vaccination efforts, call the Johnson County COVID-19 hotline at 913-715-2819, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also contact the health department via email at
As more vaccines receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and vaccine supply increases to health care providers and pharmacies, the faster we will be able to get vaccines to those who want one.
While you wait your turn to be vaccinated, continue to wear a mask consistently and appropriately whenever you leave your home, 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 but will slow the spread of illness in the community and keep our health care system from being overwhelmed.
Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.