Theresa Freed 0:00
COVID-19 vaccines are in high demand but supplies are limited. On this episode, find out how individuals are being prioritized based on jobs, risk factors and more.
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.
Theresa Freed 0:24
Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go, I'm your host Teresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. Johnson County is following the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan starting with health care workers, including EMS staff, and long term care facilities are also receiving vaccines. Here to tell us the latest on the vaccine rollout is Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola. Thanks for being here today.
Dr. Sanmi Areola 0:50
Thanks for having me.
Theresa Freed 0:52
All right. Well, first off, I just wanted to quickly follow up with you about your vaccination, are you still feeling good? And when do you get your booster?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 1:01
I got my first dose. Two weeks ago today, I feel fantastic. When I got it, there was a little bit of soreness at point of injection and a little bit very mild fever for a couple of days, obviously, your body recognizing the foreign material and producing antibodies in response to that. That's precisely what we want. I feel fantastic. I should be getting my second dose in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to that, and looking forward to feeling protected and been really excited that we're getting to vaccinate some of our residents.
Theresa Freed 1:47
And what have you seen as far as response from the people who are getting vaccinated? Is it a similar experience where people are feeling excited or relieved?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 1:56
The response has been fantastic. I've spoken with so many people, people that have gotten the Pfizer vaccine, people that have gotten the Moderna vaccine, our staff, or other healthcare providers, EMS staff, I've really had the same response, I've had contact with other people, you know, on other states, in other places that I've taken the vaccine, and they the, the feedback has been pretty consistent. It's the most people know reactions, if there are any, they're very mild, not unlike you would, when you take a flu vaccine. People are very excited about that. By far, my biggest my biggest things that I mean, that I've liked coming from people is the desire to take the vaccine, I know that we're really nationally that maybe 60 plus percent of people wants to take it. That's, that's different from what we are seeing here, we're getting a lot of interest, I'm getting interest from our teachers from our school nurses interest from people that are in their homes with underlying conditions, people that are older than 65 and 70, people that are in long term care facilities. So, so, so much positive responses from people, the limiting factor right now is getting the vaccine so we can vaccinate people, I, the vaccine, we need to get them here, we need to get them into people's arms as quickly as we can. And the limiting factor is not for lack of object. It is the vaccine themselves. And that's what we're working on.
Theresa Freed 3:39
Alright, so the enthusiasm is, I'm sure just overwhelming to the point where it's maybe a little frustrating that people can't get the vaccine right away when they want it. So can you talk about the latest on the rollout plan, especially here in Johnson County?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 3:54
Right. And that, thank you for the excellent question. And so I think it gives me an opportunity to let people know where we are, what we have received and moving forward what our plans are. There are multiple approaches to the distribution of the vaccine. That is the vaccine that's going directly to long term care facilities, skilled nursing homes, that through what we call the federal pharmacy partnership that's working through CVS and Walgreens with these institutions there are buses that are going directly to our hospitals and big health systems. And they are vaccinating their healthcare workers. There are some that are going to our Federally Qualified Health Centers, so called FQHCs. And then the very few that are coming to us thus far we've had 1200 doses and those who are really meant for public health workers as well as EMS personnel, and we quickly deploy those vaccinations to as many people as we possibly can. And then the few remaining doses we started vaccinating our other health care workers. But then, really proud of the partnership that we have with health partnership FQHCs here who received a few doses. And they have worked with us to distribute 2800 of the doses that they received. And we are opening up vaccination clinics tomorrow and on Wednesday (This podcast was recorded on Monday, Jan. 4th, 2020.) to vaccinate about 2800 people. They get a couple of things to keep in mind, we have plans in place where we can literally vaccinate thousands of people every day, we can open up multiple locations, we'll start them vaccinating. It's been very impressive that there are so many local organizations and systems who are reaching out to us to assist if we need help. So we probably can expand on those plans that we've had, we can open up locations across the county. But again, the key point is, is getting the vaccine. I've also been so impressed by the number of providers, number of individuals that are reaching out to us wanting to get vaccinated. And so we did send out the survey a few weeks ago asking providers a dentist, ophthalmologist, phlebotomist, all of those different people groups that are wanting to register and, and about 25,000 requests for vaccination have been received thus far. And so what we are doing with there is going down the list and inviting those people to register and reserve one of those slots for tomorrow and Wednesday, to receive their vaccines, again, very limited number of vaccines available. But as we get more doses, we will be pushing those out. It's also very important for people to understand that right now, we are in Group 1A Group 1, the first group where we are vaccinating healthcare workers, and residents and staff at long term care facilities. The second group will come after we have finished this group. The second group is big. It includes people that are 75 years or older, it includes educators, it includes essential workers, which is of very high importance to me and to us, these residents who are in the forefront when we close everything down. They're the ones that work in, in our schools, they work in our grocery stores, they're just right out there. And the risk is is pretty high. So we're looking forward to getting to that. I know that I've been asked when will that start? The limiting factor, again, for us is a the availability of the vaccine. If we get 20,000 vaccines today, I can assure you that we'll give those out very quickly. Once we we finish the first group of healthcare workers be ready to roll on to the next group. We are working with the state, KDHE. I understand that we are one of several counties and several entities that they are dealing with. They're also dealing with supply issues with the vaccines coming from from the Feds. But I know that everyone is working hard for us to get the vaccines here so we can get the vaccines into the arms of the people. The only way that we reach herd immunity is not the it's not simply the availability of the vaccine is getting people vaccinated and that remains hopeful.
Theresa Freed 8:47
And I know people often wonder just why don't we have the vaccine already mass produced so everyone can get vaccinated? What is the production process look like? Why does this take time?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 8:59
Well, so here's where we know that this was done pretty quickly. And while we're whereas the technique, at least for the ones who have the Messenger RNA it's been worked on for several years. This is the first time now that that is being deployed. And some of one of the advantages was the we can produce this quickly. And I think the original plan was to have 20 million of those doses distributed by the end of last year. We didn't quite meet that. But from what we're reading and hearing and the update is between Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna and upcoming approvals that we think will come AstraZeneca and others. We should have a lot more doses coming in in the next few months, perhaps next few weeks. But for us at the local level, it takes a while to get here. This is where the rubber meets the road like they say this is where we actually get the vaccine out. And we're really providing feedback to people at this stage to let them know that we're ready, we do need the vaccine, but when we get the vaccine is really out of our control here. When we get it, we're ready to get them out. And our goal is to get them out as quickly as we can.
Theresa Freed 10:32
And can you talk a little bit more about how the groups are prioritized? So obviously, those health care frontline workers, it's important to to ensure that we have a strong health system that can medical system that can can meet the needs of patients. So that's obviously a high priority. Why are these other groups in the in the tiers that they're in?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 10:54
Yeah, well so the primary prioritization was done by the CDC Vaccine Advisory Group. And, as you can tell, that this this is not very easy, making a distinction between groups, that need the vaccine, but it's got to be done somehow. Health care workers are important, again, easy to understand, because a part of our concern with increased cases is increased hospitalization, and, and death. And we need health care workers who are seeing patients to be there so our capacity there is maintained and not adversely impacted. That doesn't make other people less important. We also know that some of the more serious consequences we have found in our long term care facilities, older population who tend to have one or more underlying conditions. So it goes without saying that we need to protect those populations. That's why they're in the first group. But that's also a very broad group. We have our nurses there we have EMS there. We have our nursing assistants, we have our physicians there, we have our therapists, there phlebotomist, pharmacists, all of those groups that are providing medical services to the community, are included in that group. But the very next group is also very, very important. Like I said, essential services workers, these are people that have been out there and they're providing services to the community. It includes our first responders, it includes law enforcement, it includes corrections, which again, there is competition, even within the state as to maybe how that can be moved up. It does include our firefighters it includes food and agricultural workers, USPS workers, educators, and so you can see the pattern, it's people that are out there. And it includes people that are 75 years or older. And the very next group, which is the third group includes people that are 65 years or older, and then some of the ones that we have not covered in Group 2. And so so again, it's it's really a way of spreading this out understanding that not only do we need time to produce enough vaccine, but we also need resources to administer the vaccine. I'm getting a lot of questions, a lot of calls, a lot of anxiety from people saying when will I get this when will I know? Please understand that we want to get this into the arms of as many people as possible for us to get to herd immunity, which we need. We think we need anywhere from 60% to 90% of us vaccinated. So we want you to get it is just working through that process. Again, if you work in transportation, logistics, water, wastewater, food service, shelter, housing, you will be in the third group. And again, you will see that it's these are still essential workers not that different from the second group is just a way of prioritizing those and the rest of us with without underlying conditions who are younger. It may be a few months before you get it. But we're working very hard. Our limiting factor now is availability of us and we will do our best to get it into people's arms as quickly as possible.
Theresa Freed 14:27
And any idea at this point when you might move into the next phase.
Dr. Sanmi Areola 14:33
We if we if we get the vaccines. I don't want to reiterate that thus far, directly we've gotten 1200 doses. We got additional probably 200. Again, I didn't know that the FQHCs also helping in vaccinating health care coworkers. So that's ongoing If vaccines were available, and it's not a limiting factor we will be done in a matter of days. The limiting factor is when do we get it, we get vaccines we will give them out very quickly. So it's tough to predict until we get the vaccines and again, we're in touch with KDHE at this stage. I do know that they're working very hard. Obviously, they are distributing to a lot more places, several several places. So logistically, they're, it's, it's a big challenge that they're having to deal with. And I get that question regularly. tough for me to answer that, until I know that I have enough vaccine to give if we have the vaccines we will be done in a matter of days. And so, again, as we get more information, as we get the vaccines, we will be pushing out that information to to our residents. So you know, when, when it will be a time to get the vaccine as well, we have been doing, we're going down the list of the providers that are registered with us. And we are vaccing them. We are vaccinating a lot more tomorrow we are vaccinating a lot more Wednesday. And as we get more vaccines we'll be moving very quickly through that list. until we've taken care of those in our Group 1. Keep in mind as we are vaccinating health care workers, hospitals are doing the same thing for their staff. And through the federal pharmacy partnership, the CVS or Walgreens have helped are helping vaccinate in our residential long term care facilities. So we could get done with that in a few weeks. If we get vaccines to finish.
Theresa Freed 16:43
And just to be clear, I know that the vaccine is so limited, but those who have gotten the initial vaccine, we'll still get their vaccine booster on time. Is that right?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 16:53
That is accurate. The that was that has been made very clear by the state is that we should stop giving from our own version Madonna, which we started given two weeks ago, in a couple of weeks, we should receive vaccines to start giving to people for their second dose. So what we're saying is does not impact the second was that people are going to receive it's really getting the first dose into the arms of as many people as possible, but it's not a concern. We expect people to get their second doses.
Theresa Freed 17:30
Okay, and you know, I asked this question often, but is there anyone who should not get this vaccine? Or is it really something that everybody should get?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 17:40
Well, so then the vaccines are not, are not approved. For younger people. I believe that the Moderna vaccine is approved for people older than 18. And the Pfizer, for example, vaccine is approved for people that are 16. It's currently being tested on younger children is also being tested on pregnant women and lactating women, it doesn't mean that it's not safe just means that we don't have enough data, all of those have been tested. Keep in mind that what we have is an emergency use authorization having been tested in 1000s of people to ensure and assure its efficacy and safety, it was deemed that the benefits outweigh the risk. So we have an emergency use authorization. But those original studies are still ongoing. And once they're completed, we'll have more information. So right now, if you are younger than 16 or 18, you are not eligible. If you are pregnant, we always say consult with your primary care physician that should not stop you from taking it. But it's always good to consult with you with with your physician if you have severe allergy. Again, consult with a physician we have processes in place to observe people for minutes after they take the vaccine and see if there are allergic reactions, we have processes in place to address those as quickly as we can.
Theresa Freed 19:15
All right, just last question, how will people know when it's their turn? Should they sign up somewhere or do they How do they get the information?
Dr. Sanmi Areola 19:22
Yeah, the only people that were asked to sign up right now. medical providers who qualify for all of the information will be available through our website jocogov.org/coronavirus. You'll have the opportunity to go in there and sign up for slots. When it is your time we will be providing that information. Remember these are in phases that are groups that have been prioritized. We will do our best to let people know when we're moving from one phase to another. Right now, we're vaccinating the first group. Those are healthcare workers and residents of long term care facilities. When we feel comfortable with that we're about done with that. And we return to move to the next phase we will be providing that information but that information will be pushed us out through different media as much as possible.
Theresa Freed 20:22
That's great information. All right. Thank you for being with us today.
Dr. Sanmi Areola 20:25
Thank you Theresa for having me. Thank you.
Theresa Freed 20:28
All right. And thanks for listening.
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