Johnson County vaccinations continue this week — here’s who’s next in line during Phase 2

Teachers, daycare workers and those 80 years and older, are among the groups being prioritized for vaccines this week. Above, a health care worker for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission prepares COVID-19 vaccine doses ahead of a clinic Saturday that administered first doses to some 2,000 Johnson County seniors. Image courtesy AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.

Johnson County Phase 2 vaccinations continue this week, with the county Department of Health and Environment continuing to focus on individuals in Tier 1 of Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan.

Here’s what you need to know about vaccinations in Johnson County for the week of Feb. 8.

More educators to get vaccinated

Among others being given priority this week are educators, including those in both K-12 public and private schools. Also included in this group: daycare workers.

Last week, JCDHE prioritized special education teachers, along with the staff at the Kansas School for the Deaf because many of those educators have had to teach in person this school year and often work with students, who for health-related needs, cannot always be masked.

Now, clinics organized through Children’s Mercy Hospital will give first doses to employees of K-12 schools and childcare providers. Mobile clinics for general education staff started late last week and will continue this week for school districts in the public, private and parochial systems.

County health officials said each school and district will make their own plan for which employees get priority.

In the Shawnee Mission School District, for instance, chief communications officer David Smith said in an email that SMSD’s vaccination plan prioritizes staff members by the following criteria:

  • individuals with “an American with Disabilities Act accommodation”
  • those most at risk for exposure and serious infection, including “staff working in close proximity with consistently unmasked students”
  • those at “highest risk of severe illness,” including those who are older

Johnson County estimates that some 25,000 educators and daycare staffers fall into this category needing to get vaccinated.

Elizabeth Holzschuh, the county’s director of epidemiology, said vaccinating educators and childcare providers remains a top priority in the county, and JCDHE plans to set aside a portion of its allotment each week from the state to make progress towards that goal, but it will take time.

“Two thousand doses here and there, while it does reduce the number of persons in that group [who need the vaccine], we still have a long way to go,” Areola said.

JCDHE still focused on individuals 80+

The county will continue offering clinics Tuesday through Thursday that will be focused primarily on individuals who are 80 years and older who have not been vaccinated yet.

Some 2,000 Johnson County seniors were vaccinated at a clinic run by AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Saturday, but it’s not clear when the next such mass vaccination clinic will occur.

Some seniors living in independent living communities not covered by the federal vaccine partnership with CVS and Walgreens have struggled to get vaccinated.

Last week, Holzschuh said that the county had identified 24 independent senior living facilities with roughly 1,600 residents total that had not had on-site vaccine clinics and was working to potentially arrange mobile clinics for these facilities.

Hospital systems arranging vaccines for those 65+

All major health systems serving Johnson County have begun contacting patients to let them know if they are currently eligible to get vaccinated, primarily those 65 and older.

Hospitals are also offering ways to sign up for alerts and updates if you’d like to know more about when and how vaccinations will be made available to priority groups.

In some cases, hospitals are offering information to non-patients.

First doses for first responders expected to finish this week

In the mean time, the county expects to finish up first-dose clinics for emergency services personnel, including firefighters and law enforcement officers, early this week, Areola said.

That, in turn, will open up more doses for other groups prioritized in Phase 2, tier 1.

“We are pushing this as hard as we can, as fast as we can,” Areola said. “We are vaccinating, we are using up the doses that we are receiving as we get them and that’s going to continue into next week.”

Some doses may begin appearing at retail pharmacies

Starting this week, the CDC says some vaccine doses could start popping up in local pharmacies, like CVS and Walgreens, through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, but Johnson County residents shouldn’t count on this to improve statewide supply issues.

Kristi Zears, director of communications for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the entire state is expected to receive just 10,000 doses during this step of the program.

Johnson County health officials again counseled patience for residents eager to get vaccinated but frustrated by low supply.

“It’d be great if with the snap of the finger we were able to get vaccines from the federal government to our pharmacy partners and start immunizing as many residents as possible in this phase — unfortunately, supplies are still limited,” Holzschuh said. “I don’t think it’s going to be the quick fix that we all hoped it would be.”

Still, any way to get more vaccines into the community is good, she emphasized, since it could become another “entry point” to more widespread distribution.

Second doses for those who are due

People who received their first dose from JCDHE recently and are due for their second dose this week should have already received information about setting up an appointment, either via email, text or phone call, or will soon.

For Tuesday, 1,500 appointments were set aside to give some second doses of the Moderna vaccine. Additionally, appointments on Wednesday and Thursday have been set aside for some second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Areola said people should refer to their vaccine information card they received at their first dose to see what date is recommend for their second dose. But the second dose does not have to come on that exact date.

People have up to 42 days after the first dose to receive the second.