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As Kansas enters Phase 5, local counties take different approaches to COVID vaccine rollout



Kansas — As of Monday, Kansas is the eighth state to open up vaccines to all residents 16 and older, but individual counties have the power to go at their own pace.

Over a third of Kansans have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. An increase in vaccines combined with a decline in demand prompted Gov. Laura Kelly to move the state into Phase 5 of its vaccination plan. Some counties are following the state and others are not.

Wyandotte County has administered nearly 40,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has multiple vaccination sites where residents 16 or older can walk-in and get a vaccine — no appointment necessary.

“We’re just at a point to where we need to get more people through our doors,” said Janell Friesen, spokesperson for the Unified Government health department. “We think that having the previous restrictions on who could come in sometimes was a little confusing.”

While Johnson County just moved into Phase 3 and 4 a week ago, the county is also following the state and opening up eligibility to all people 16 and older from its vaccine signup list.

“For us, that’s a good thing,” Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola said. “It just means that when we open up appointments and our partners in our health systems and pharmacists opening up appointments, that right now this separation between the phases are not as important.”

For the majority of the vaccine distribution, Johnson County has been focused on people 65 and older. Areola is comfortable opening up to all because 75% of people in that age range in Johnson County have been vaccinated. The county is expecting 20,000 doses this week to help with the increased demand.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health is waiting to move forward.

“We have a lot of Phase 3 and 4 individuals with health concerns, medical conditions, and we wanted to provide a little more room for them to have greater access to the vaccine,” Health Director Dan Partridge said.

Lawrence-Douglas County just had its first Phase 3 clinic last week and still has a few thousand people in Phases 1 and 2 who have not been vaccinated. The Lawrence-Douglas County heath department said it will spend the next two weeks getting Phases 1 and 2 knocked out before opening up vaccines to everyone.