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‘Stronger together’: Douglas County hosts final mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic



TOPEKA, Kan. – Douglas County hosted its last mass COVID-19 vaccination event on Wednesday after more than three months of clinics.

Since Jan. 29, Douglas County has held 26 mass vaccination clinics at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and administered around 55,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Prior to the start of the final event on Wednesday, county and city leaders addressed the crowd of volunteers to thank them for their involvement and commemorate the success of their efforts.

“I have been involved in a lot of things: the births of children, the deaths of a lot of people, the happy times, the sad times, the rewarding times … and I tell you that this clinic has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I will ever do in my entire career,” Dennis Leslie, division chief of training with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, told the crowd. Leslie said he has been involved in fire and medical services in Douglas County since 1994.

Lawrence City Commissioner Lisa Larsen told volunteers that the clinics would not have been possible without them, and Jillian Rodrigue, deputy director for Douglas County Emergency Management, told the volunteers they’d brought hope to people who had not had hope for over a year.

City commissioner Lisa Larsen was one of numerous city and county leaders to address the crowd of volunteers before the county’s final mass vaccination clinic on April 28.

One volunteer was given a special shout-out by health department director Dan Partridge. Of the 26 mass vaccination clinics the county has organized, Colleen Janssen has volunteered at 21.

Janssen said the events have been a “phenomenal example of coming together as one.” She said she loved meeting new people and seeing the excitement of residents as they received their vaccine.

“Each time, I just couldn’t wait to come back,” she said. “This has been just a really rewarding experience.”

Dan Partridge, director of the county health department, recognized volunteer Colleen Janssen during the county’s final mass vaccination clinic. Of the 26 mass vaccination clinics the county offered, Janssen volunteered at 21.

As the Journal-World has reported, LMH Health will now begin hosting vaccine drive-thru events at its facility. It will be a five-day-per-week clinic that will allow people to get a vaccination without any advance appointment. Douglas County decided to switch locations to LMH Health because vaccine supply is now outpacing demand in the county, and mass vaccination clinics are no longer needed.

Partridge said the efforts now will be directed to smaller clinics, such as the one at LMH Health, community clinics and outreach to minority groups and those undecided about receiving the vaccine.

Despite dwindling demand, Douglas County remains one of Kansas’ most vaccinated counties against COVID-19. Douglas County is currently the second-most-vaccinated county in Kansas, following Marshall County. In Douglas County, about 456 out of every 1,000 people are vaccinated.

Douglas County Commissioner Patrick Kelly said the community should be proud of its high vaccination rate.

“I am just so moved by the work that this community has done to come together, to work together,” he said. “When we come together and we work together, we are stronger together, aren’t we? And I think we should celebrate that.”