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Health officials: Kansas needs ‘a lot more’ COVID-19 vaccine



TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas will need far more doses of coronavirus vaccines than it’s set to receive in the coming days to start giving shots to all residents 75 or older, officials at a major health care system said Monday, as the state reported its worst seven-day spike in COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic.

State officials expect Kansas’ 49,000 doses of a vaccine made by Moderna set to arrive this week to go to local health departments and community health care centers, so that they can vaccine health care workers, said Ashley Jones-Wisner, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The state’s first vaccine shipments last week, 23,750 doses made by Pfizer, went to hospitals for at-risk health care workers.

The state’s vaccine distribution plan calls for vaccines first to go to health care workers, workers in nursing homes and nursing home residents, though Jones-Wisner said another shipment of Pfizer’s vaccines, expected to be 17,550 doses, will be used to start those shots. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

A federal advisory panel recommended Sunday that people 75 and older and essential workers like firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers should be next in line for shots after health care workers and nursing home residents. But Dr. Steve Stites, the chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System, said until the state gets more doses, distributing vaccines is “going to be a little difficult.”

It’s likely to be months before vaccines will be available for everyone. Kansas officials don’t

“Somebody’s going to feel left out, because there’s not enough,” Stites said during an online briefing other health system officials. “We just have to have a lot more of the vaccine.”

The state health department reported a pandemic-high average of 48 additional COVID-19 deaths a day for the seven days ending Monday, with the previous record of 45 set last week for the seven days ending Wednesday. The state added 107 new deaths to its pandemic tally since Friday, to bring the total to 2,448, or one for every 1,190 residents.

The state also added 4,174 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases to its pandemic total since Friday, bringing it to 204.600, or one case for every 14 of the state’s 2.9 million residents. The state averaged 2,083 new cases a day for the seven days ending Monday.

Two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, or 1,649, had occurred in residents 75 or older as of Monday, and last week, the state health department reported that during the pandemic, more than 500 clusters of two or more cases had accounted for 963 deaths.

The state plans to have vaccine shots given to nursing home residents and staff on-site, mostly through retail pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens, so that neither group has to leave their facilities.

“We know that nursing home residents are the highest-risk people when they get COVID-19 but also the highest-risk of being exposed because of their congregate living situation,” said Dr. Jessica Kalender-Rich, a geriatric care specialist and member of a national advisory committee on vaccine distribution in nursing homes.

Gov. Laura Kelly already has celebrated a relatively wide distribution of the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine across the state last week, saying it reached roughly 100 of the state’s 105 counties. The Moderna vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at as cold temperatures, and Stites said that will mean it can go to more places.

Stites also said people of all ages — including in nursing homes — still can protect themselves with masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. And, he predicted, Kansas will be “in pretty darn good shape” a year from now because of the vaccines.