Johnson County will begin Phase 2 vaccinations next week — what you need to know

Kansas vaccine fair share

Johnson County says it will continue vaccinating health care workers in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout but will also start giving doses to people in Phase 2, which include seniors 65 and older, teachers and grocery story workers. Above a KU Health System worker holds a tray of vaccines. File photo courtesy KU Health System.

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Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccinations in Johnson County will begin Tuesday, Jan. 26, according to county health officials.

In a virtual press conference on Facebook Thursday, county health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., said individuals in prioritized groups — including people 65 and older and health care workers in Phase 1 who are still unvaccinated — will be first in line.

The move comes after Kansas announced a statewide shift to Phase 2 Wednesday.

Areola and county epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh, who also participated in the press conference, continued to urge Johnson Countians to have patience because the number of doses arriving in the county from the state currently falls well short of demand.

“We have this light at the end of the tunnel, but it is just coming much slower than we had hoped for,” Holzschuh said.

You can watch the press conference at the county’s Facebook page, and it is also embedded below:

Tonight our staff provided an update on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan for Phase 2 in Johnson County, KS. Here is…

Posted by Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on Thursday, January 21, 2021

 

Here are some key questions that were answered during the press conference:

Who gets priority in Phase 2? 

The county has divided Phase 2 individuals into three tiers with Tier 1 getting priority. Tier 1 includes:

  • Unvaccinated individuals left over from Phase 1, mostly health care workers
  • People 65 and older
  • K-12 school staff, including teachers, bus drivers and custodians
  • Licensed child care workers
  • EMS and public safety workers, including police and firefighters
  • Grocery store workers
  • Employees at bars and restaurants
  • Workers at food processing plants

Who comes after that in Phase 2?

Tier 2 of Phase 2 is made up of people in “congregate settings,” which include:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Emergency shelters for domestic violence
  • Correctional facilities
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Adult and child protective services facilities
  • Home health aids and caregivers

Tier 3 of Phase 2 includes:

  • Water and wastewater workers
  • Postal service workers
  • Department of Motor Vehicles workers
  • Retail, warehouse and sales outlet employees
  • Employees of companies that provide critical service materials like PPE

How long will I have to wait if I’m in Phase 2?

That’s not clear, but it still could be a while, even for Tier 1 individuals.

The county said at least 48,000 individuals filled out the survey last weekend after it opened on Friday.

For context, the state of Kansas says it expects to receive roughly 45,000 doses for the entire state in its next shipment from the federal government.

“Your ability to get vaccinated is dependent on the supply of vaccine,” Areola said Thursday.

Should I ask my doctor or primary care provider about getting vaccinated?

Areola said the largest health systems serving Johnson County — including AdventHealth, HCA, KU Med, Olathe Health and St. Luke’s — are already reaching out to patients who are 65 and older to alert them that it may soon be possible to get vaccinated.

These major hospital networks will be administering vaccines to patients as part of Phase 2, separate from doses administered by the county.

For seniors, especially, Areola suggested reaching out to your doctor or primary care provider if you have not already received communication from them to see what their plans are.

Can I go to a pharmacy, like CVS or Walgreens, and ask about getting vaccinated? 

Those two major pharmacy chains are currently helping vaccinate residents and workers in long-term care facilities nationwide.

Once that is done, they are expected to begin vaccinating members of the general public, but it’s unclear exactly when that may happen.

Areola said if you walk into a CVS or Walgreens now and you’re not affiliated with a long-term care facility, you won’t get vaccinated.

Do I have to get vaccinated in Johnson County? Can I travel to another county or cross state lines to get vaccinated? 

Vaccines are federally administered and Areola said there are “no rules” against going somewhere else to try to get vaccinated. Some Post readers, for instance, have asked if they could drive to rural Kansas where there may be less demand to see if they can get vaccinated there.

But Areola cautioned that supply-chain issues that have bedeviled Johnson County are occurring everywhere else, too, and all Kansas counties are trying to plan vaccinations for their populations, so such efforts may not yield success.

Areola suggested Johnson Countians’ best bet may be to remain patient and get vaccinated trough the county or a hospital system here.

What if I live in Johnson County but work in another county? Can I still get vaccinated here?

Yes, anyone who lives or works in Johnson County qualifies to get vaccinated in Phase 2 in Johnson County. County health officials encourage you to fill out the online survey if you are eligible to receive a vaccination in Phase 2.

However, there could be potential complications for some people who work elsewhere: for example, teachers who live in Johnson County but work in a district outside the county. Since districts and schools here are expected to coordinate with Children’s Mercy Hospital to vaccinate their employees, much of that communication will likely come through the districts to their teachers and staff members.

Teachers who teach outside Johnson County should check with their school or district to see how they plan to vaccinate their employees.

What if I’ve already received my first dose and am waiting on my second dose? Will I get pushed back in line now that Phase 2 is starting? 

Areola said this should not happen for Phase 1 individuals trying to book a second-dose appointment through the county.

People who have received the first dose should have received a card telling them on what date they should get their second dose.

“When it’s time for that second dose, reach out to us and book an appointment,” Areola said.

Still, the vaccine supply at the time you try to book that appointment may impact how quickly you get your second shot.

How can I get more information or stay up-to-date on the county’s vaccine rollout?

Johnson County encourages residents to do the following:

  • Sign up for the county’s daily COVID-19 email newsletter here
  • Follow JCHDE on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates
  • Bookmark the county’s COVID-19 dashboard here