JoCo on the Go Podcast: Youth Vaccine Clinics

On episode #166 of JoCo on the Go, we take a look at some upcoming vaccine clinics being offered this summer for children in the community to get up to date on the vaccines they need to participate in school activities. We visit with Lina Thomas, a nurse with Johnson County’s Department of Health and Environment and Amanda Applegate with the Immunize Kansas Coalition to learn more. For additional information, visit the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s website, or call 913-826-1261 or send an email to

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Time Subject
00:32 Introduction
01:34 DHE's vaccine clinics
02:12 Summer vaccine clinics
06:35 Why we're offering the clinics
10:23 Vaccine requirements
14:38 Helping hesitant parents


Andy Hyland 0:00 

This summer in Johnson County, the Department of Health and Environment will be offering some new vaccine clinics for kids so that everyone can be up to date this year on what they need to participate in school activities. Stay tuned to get the latest information on how to get what you need.

Announcer 0:17 

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Andy Hyland 0:32 

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Andy Hyland. I work in public affairs at Johnson County Government. As I mentioned, we're here to talk about how you can get the vaccines you need for school this summer. And joining us today to discuss this are Lina Thomas, a nurse who helps administer the vaccines in these clinics. And Dr. Amanda Applegate, with the Immunize Kansas Coalition. Lina, let's start with you. So welcome, and thanks for joining us today. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.

Lina Thomas 1:02 

Yes, hello, Andy. Thank you for having me. I am one of the immunization nurses here at the Olathe office. We also have a location in Mission. And I helped immunize all ages from babies to grown adults.

Andy Hyland 1:19 

And so you mentioned that you work in some of these vaccine clinics that the Department of Health and Environment puts on for Johnson Countians. What vaccines are you typically providing in these clinics?

Lina Thomas 1:34 

Almost all childhood and adult required and recommended vaccines.

Andy Hyland 1:41 

So what are some examples of those? What kind of vaccines do you have?

Lina Thomas 1:44 

Oh my goodness, we have Hep A and B, your MMR, the measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, meningitis, Tdap? All the good things.

Andy Hyland 2:00 

All of them. Sounds great. So who's able to take advantage of these? So let's maybe focus in on some new clinics that are being offered this year for youth in particular. Who are those targeted for?

Lina Thomas 2:12 

So those are going to be for these seventh or 11th graders entering in the 2024-2025 school year.

Andy Hyland 2:21 

Okay, and where will you have some information on when those will be offered and where people can take advantage of those?

Lina Thomas 2:29 

Yes, so we're actually going to have, we're going to hold six walk-in clinics, like I said, for those entering in the seventh or 11th grade. There will be two in June, two in July and two in August. The two in June will be held at the Olathe office, off Sunset Drive. July, the two clinics will be in Mission. And then in August, we'll hold those two back in the Olathe Sunset Drive location.

Andy Hyland 3:04 

And I think information about specific dates and times and locations.

Lina Thomas 3:10 

The exact date times and locations can all be found on the Johnson County Health Department page, just listed under the immunizations hyperlink. And then there will be another hyperlink'll say summer vaccination clinic. The first one is going to be on June 14. So that one is just around the corner.

Andy Hyland 3:32 

That's great. And so we'll put a link to those websites in the description of the podcast as well so folks can navigate there. And so it sounds like these are really geared toward what's required for participating in school and school activities. So will people be able to get all the vaccines they need for that at these walk-in clinics?

Lina Thomas 3:55 

No. So each clinic will provide just what's required for the seventh and 11th graders, which is the Tdap, Hep A and meningitis, which are all required by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to attend school and school activities. But we will also have HPV vaccine, which is not required but highly recommended, because it does provide protection from certain cancers for both boys and girls.

Andy Hyland 4:29 

What advice do you have for people who are attending one of these clinics or there's some stuff that they should bring with them when they come?

Lina Thomas 4:37 

So I would say take advantage of these clinics. If you have a seventh or 11th grader going in this school year, then come and see us. Just take advantage of that reduced wait time. Don't wait till school starts when then you have everybody coming in all ages for their vaccines or, you know, travel vaccines. I will say there is an online form that they have an option to fill out, which is highly encouraged to fill out beforehand. The parent does have to come with their student to the clinic. If they have an insurance card, to bring that. And also, if they have shot records, if they can bring that if possible, then we can help them with those times if they need to come back or whatnot. And then we can go from there.

Andy Hyland 5:36 

One of the things I saw on the website that was nice to see is that no one will be turned away for an inability to pay. That if you have that insurance card, bring it in, but if not, there's a path that you can get a vaccine anyway.

Lina Thomas 5:48 

Yes. So we are a Vaccines for Children program provider, which they can go online to see if their child is eligible. But pretty much there's just a $20 administration fee per vaccine. And we can either bill that at the time of service or later. Yeah, so we can get everybody vaccinated for the school year.

Andy Hyland 6:18 

That's great. That's great. And I think, why offer these clinics? I mean, you mentioned you were a school nurse at one point as well in your career. And so why are these vaccine clinics important? And why are you offering them now?

Lina Thomas 6:35 

So we're offering these clinics to help reduce the wait times, because we can get really busy, you know, come August and September, October. Yes, and I was a school nurse and I know these are new vaccines that are kind of out of that normal, you know, younger age to get so we kind of forget them. So we're just hoping to help parents get these off their to-do lists before school starts and save them the time later in the fall.

Andy Hyland 7:09 

Also joining us today is Dr. Amanda Applegate, the Board Chair of the Immunize Kansas Coalition. Welcome, Amanda.

Dr. Amanda Applegate 7:19 

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk about this today.

Andy Hyland 7:22 

Yeah, so maybe we should start with what does the Immunize Kansas Coalition do?

Dr. Amanda Applegate 7:27 

Yeah. It's an important organization that I am super proud to be a part of. You know, I really, truly believe in the mission that they have, is protecting Kansans from diseases that can be either prevented or made less harmful if somebody's vaccinated. You know, I really believe we're so lucky to have so many options to prevent, especially our children, but everybody really from getting sick or dying from diseases that used to be a lot more common. One of the things I really liked to harken back to is our board member, we have a board member that grew up with her family caring for a town cemetery. And she speaks of, you know, seeing the graves of children getting fewer and fewer over the decades of sciences advanced to eliminate things like measles, diphtheria and things that children used to suffer from. And I think on the Immunize Kansas side is, you know, unfortunately, those diseases are not as common as they used to be. So parents don't know the horrors that things like tetanus and polio can have on a child's body. And so, unfortunately, many people are being fed a lot of misinformation and disinformation about vaccinations. And so we're really around to help combat that spread, by helping parents and families access information that they need to help them make informed decisions about their health.

Andy Hyland 8:43 

That's fantastic. And talk a little bit about your own personal work and how you got involved in the coalition and your own professional work inside and outside of that.

Dr. Amanda Applegate 8:54 

Yeah, sure. So I actually I grew up wanting to be a pharmacist. My mom's a pharmacist. But I really wanted to work in a hospital. But when I was in pharmacy school, the H1N1 pandemic happened, and I saw the need for pharmacists as a part of public health. And it really changed my mind. We worked on a lot of immunization clinics at that time, because the H1N1 pandemic primarily affected college students. And so you had college kids getting sick and dying. You had a lot of people that were really in desperate need of a vaccination that was rolled out, and we were able to do those. So that really changed my focus to public health. So I did my residency in a community pharmacy in the Johnson County area with Ball's food stores, so many of you are probably familiar with the Hen House and Price Chopper pharmacies. I spent 11 years helping them with their immunization programs, helping educate their pharmacists on immunizations, and probably vaccinated a lot of people in the area with shingles vaccines, flu shots and then the rollout of the COVID vaccine at that time. So as doing a part of that, you know, I connected with Immunize Kansas Coalition and saw the good work that they were doing to not only help, you know, people in my area in Johnson County, but across the state as well, too.

Andy Hyland 10:12 

And so maybe you could talk a little bit about some of the vaccine requirements that we're seeing. And I think particularly maybe in the case of Hepatitis A, I think that may be a new one. So talk a little bit about that.

Dr. Amanda Applegate 10:23 

Yeah. We'll come back to Hepatitis A. It's not a new vaccine, but it's a new-ish requirement. But yeah, so vaccination requirements in Kansas are set at the state level. So the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has a group of physicians, pharmacists, clinicians, nurses, etc. that work together to help evaluate the vaccinations that are out there, and the risks and benefits to children and families in our area. A lot of times, we do follow the national experts of the CDC, etc. And in this particular case, set those requirements at that KDHE level. So then after that, those requirements are then passed down to the schools. And each district has the ability to set exemption data. So each school has the ability to set exclusion policies. So whether or not they're going to keep a child out of school if they don't have the full list of vaccinations. And so in many cases, you know, the school district works to set that policy to, you know, keep children in school whenever possible, but also to keep all children safe as well too, is making sure that, you know, children that are in there that may be immunocompromised, the children that are in there that may be perfectly healthy but still vulnerable to these diseases, that they're protected. And so making sure again, primarily keeping kids in school, but keeping kids safe as well too. Again, that's set at the district level. So school districts are going to vary, and especially with a couple of different districts here in the Johnson County area. What happens in Blue Valley may be different than Olathe, so those specific policies are set at that district level on whether a child can attend or not attend when they're catching up or may not have vaccinations. So Hepatitis A is one that we're seeing a lot of catch up lately. That vaccination is not a new vaccine, but the requirement's kind of on the new-ish side of things. So you're probably seeing a lot of kids catching up. And Hepatitis A is a particularly gross liver disease that spreads really when somebody touches poop with hands. And then that virus can land in water, it can land in food, it can land on surfaces and makes its way into somebody's mouth. Children, unfortunately, can have and spread Hepatitis A sometimes with very minimal symptoms or occasionally no symptoms at all. They can spread it for weeks. But some of those kiddos develop lasting liver damage, and can spread it to other folks that can develop that as well, too. So cases of Hep A have been on the rise in Kansas for a number of years. And so that was added as one of those ways to, you know, keep more of our kids safe. So we do have six required immunizations in the state of Kansas for kids to enter kindergarten.

Andy Hyland 10:46 

And so what happens when a child doesn't have all of those vaccinations? What kind of impacts do we see?

Dr. Amanda Applegate 13:30 

Yeah, so a couple of different things. Obviously they leave themselves and their families vulnerable to some of these vaccine preventable diseases or diseases that can keep them safe, the vaccinations that can keep them safe. But at the school level is, if the child doesn't have all their required vaccinations, again, that's a district by district policy, to say whether or not the child is allowed into school to be around other school children. So again, in most cases, if a child is working through a catch-up schedule, they're allowed to be in school and work through that process. But that is a district by district decision on what to do when the kids don't have that particular vaccinations in place.

Andy Hyland 14:18 

You know, one of the things we wanted to talk about too was, so people who may be hesitant to receive these vaccines for one reason or another. On the parent side, what are some ways that you can make the process easier for those parents who may have questions about what this process is or or what it means for their kids?

Dr. Amanda Applegate 14:38 

Yeah, I think first of all, it's so okay and it's so important to have questions. Because, you know, it's part of the healthcare process. It's something that can be kind of scary for some folks too. I give the example all the time is I was kind of freaked out ahead of the COVID vaccinations that they were rolling out. And so one of the things I did is all of those vaccines have case control trials. All vaccines have those. And so, you know, I went and looked at that really gold standard data and looked at the numbers of that data as well, too, and said, like, "Okay, I feel good about this overall." And so I think asking those questions and having those questions answered in a responsible manner. And so that's one of the things I always really like to talk to folks about is that providers especially should be aware that people are going to have questions, and that's totally okay. So making sure that they're working with their providers to have those questions answered in a responsible manner. Because a lot of times what can happen with some of this is that people really fall into social media bubbles. If they have a question, you know, they may use Google and they find something that is specifically targeting them with misinformation or disinformation, often times with something to sell them, which is problematic for a lot of reasons. And I think one of my favorite things about Immunize Kansas Coalition is we have a really interesting resource called vaccine fears overturned by facts. It was written by two moms that had questions, didn't have them answered appropriately, and really fell into a social media bubble of spreading misinformation and disinformation to other parents. And, you know, they started asking some more questions and really delved into the data, found out that, you know, vaccines are largely safe and effective. And so yeah, there's going to be some concerns about them when it comes to things like some side effects, they're incredibly rare. And I think that's important. So once they kind of came out of that social media bubble, realized that, you know. In our Kansas metro area, more people think routine vaccinations are more important than getting a regular checkup from a physician, which I think is fascinating. So protecting kids from measles, protecting kids from diphtheria, pertussis, etc. is that, you know, across the board, across the political spectrum, is that people believe in these immunizations. Over 97% believe that it's very important or important to get these routine vaccinations. So I think some of it is that the hesitancy is totally fine. But realize that the majority of people believe that these are very important as far as health care goes, and whatever social media bubble that may be around somebody can be dangerous for them and their families, too. And so I think on the physical side of things is, you know, hopefully those questions are addressed appropriately. And again, that vaccine fears overturned by facts, written by those former antivax moms, is just an incredible resource. We have a webinar that the moms talk through, as well as just information about some of the common vaccination myths that you see out there in terms of that disinformation spread. And then taking the time to work with experts to help break down those myths and why they're not true. But on the physical side of things, too, is, you know, making that vaccination process easier for kids and parents both of my favorite resources there is the Meg Foundation. And they break down by age of the child what's called a "poke plan." And it lets the child have a little bit of autonomy and lets the family have a little bit of autonomy in that process. To say, you know, have the kids say I want my right arm or my left arm. I would like to watch my iPad while I'm getting this shot, or, "Hey, I actually want to watch the shot." I'm always kind of surprised when kids are like, "Yeah, this is kind of cool. Like, let's talk about the process." There's also ways to help decrease the pain, because let's be real, there's a needle poke involved. It's not fun. And so there's ways that the poke plan helps a child and a parent decrease the pain of that poke. So whether it's with a little device called a shot blocker or a little buzzy, that, you know, you can put on the arm, it vibrates a little bit and tricks the brain into not feeling that poke. You know, if you can make that process lower anxiety by answering those questions, giving them a little bit of control over the process through that poke plan. But also decreasing the pain, that can really help. And then I think the final thing I usually like to say in terms of making that process easier, is that vaccinations are there because they introduce a little bit of training material into your immune system. So there's going to be a little bit of an immune response, and that's fine. That's normal. That's expected. And so I think, you know, one of the examples I give in adults is a lot of people have had that shingles vaccine. They kind of feel like crap the next day in a lot of cases. That means your immune system is working. It's got that training material, it's responding to that training material, and it knows what to do moving forward. So expecting that, you know, after a vaccination, child may feel a little bit down the next day, because their immune system is getting an upgrade while it's working. So expect that, expect a little bit of a fever and maybe some muscle aches, to be down and out for, you know, part of a day or maybe a whole day, but bouncing back to normal the next day. So those expectations of, "Hey, I expected this, I knew this was going to happen. But I also trust that they're good to go," is definitely a part of decreasing that anxiety that people may feel about that.

Andy Hyland 20:37 

It sounds like...I want to talk just a little bit about that poke plan a little bit. One, where can you find the resource? You mentioned it briefly. Where can folks go?

Dr. Amanda Applegate 20:46 

Yeah, so the Meg Foundation poke plan. So Meg, M-E-G, that Meg foundation poke plan, they have poke plans by all ages have children, and their primary goal is decreasing the experience of pain that a child might feel. So whether it's with a poke from an immunization, or maybe a blood draw or other procedures that a child has is that is an amazing resource. It's available as a printed sheet. So a child can get that, you know, that may be old enough to read and understand., so in that kind of preteen or teenage group. They can make those choices to say, you know, I want to be distracted or I want to be held or have somebody with me, or hey, I can do this by myself. and I want a Superman bandage when I'm done, if possible. Some of those types of things. But for younger children, it helps the parents select that as well, too. So again, really, with that goal of giving them a little bit of control and making everybody feel a little bit more comfortable as a part of that process. So love the Meg Foundation, because if we can keep those processes, pain free for those children or as pain free as possible, it really decreases the trauma that a child might have surrounding this. Because we see, you know, I think historically a lot of kids are like, you know, you be good or you're gonna get a shot. Well, that's not a great way to treat that process. It's not a punishment. It's just a part of normal life. And, you know, I think like you said, normalizing some of that, too, is it's okay to have questions. You know, it is okay to want to avoid that pain. It's not a growth process or anything like that. If you can decrease that, it's a good thing. And I think also, you know, normalizing that people believe in vaccines, Kansans believe in vaccines. You know, we have more than 97% of our kindergarteners entering kindergarten vaccinated. And so again, that's the number we're really looking at, is it's a very normal thing. It keeps kids safe, keeps kids healthy.

Andy Hyland 22:54 

That's great. Thank you so much, Amanda, for taking some time. And thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Amanda Applegate 22:59 

Yeah, so happy to be here. Yeah. Thank you.

Andy Hyland 23:03 

Well thanks again. Thanks again to both of you for joining today. You can get more information about those upcoming vaccine clinics on the Johnson County website and the link in the description. Or by calling 913-826-1261. You can also email

Announcer 23:26 

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at jocogov. For more on this podcast, visit Thanks for listening.

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