Vaccinations are key to pre-pandemic life
By Jennifer Dunlay
Johnson County health officials say that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the important step we can take to control the spread of the virus and get us back to pre-pandemic life.
Adults age 65 and older are leading the way. More than 72% of adults age 65-79 and nearly 80% of adults over age 80 were vaccinated in Johnson County by early June.
“The vaccines are working. Cases and deaths have dropped significantly in in our senior adult population since we started vaccinating them in December,” says Dr. Sanmi Areola, director the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE).
Cases of COVID-19 in adults age 60 and older now make up less than 15% of the weekly cases in Johnson County and clusters of cases at senior living facilities are few and far between, according to Areola. Around the third week of December, when COVID-19 cases were at their highest in Johnson County, there was an average of seven deaths per day due to COVID-19. In May, Johnson County had only 10 reported COVID-19 deaths, all in unvaccinated individuals, during the entire month, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
According to Areola, nearly all of the county’s COVID-19 infections are occurring in people who are not vaccinated. He’s grateful there are several vaccines available that are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
“It is our responsibility to get ourselves vaccinated so we can resume traveling, getting together with family and friends and dining at restaurants with some confidence that we are protected,” he adds.
Getting vaccinated has other advantages, too. Fully vaccinated people (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by law or as determined by a local business or workplace. Areola says unvaccinated individuals still need to take precautions, like wearing a mask, frequent handwashing and avoiding crowds.
“Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available,” he adds. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we need more of our population to get vaccinated before we can claim victory.” Areola would like to see 75% or more of the county’s eligible population to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the summer.
The COVID-19 vaccine is available for free to anyone age 12 and older at JCDHE’s vaccination clinic located at 15500 W. 108th St. in Lenexa through July 31. JCDHE offers both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at its clinic. These are two-dose vaccines given three or four weeks apart.
Vaccines are given by appointment or during walk-in hours: jocogov.org/coronavirus-covid-19-update. You can also find a vaccine provider near you by texting your ZIP code to 438829, searching vaccines.gov or calling 1-800-232-0233.
Individuals without internet access or who need assistance scheduling a vaccine appointment, can call the county’s hotline at (913) 715-2819. Spanish speakers are available. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.
Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.