Johnson County vaccine FAQ: will the pace of vaccinations pick up soon?

CDC vaccination data

Pharmacy-run vaccine clinics, like this one in a converted cafe at an Overland Park Price Chopper, are helping gradually boost the number of doses being administered in Johnson County each week. County health officials say they have the capacity to ultimately distribute up to 30,000 doses a week. Currently, between 8-10,000 doses are being given out weekly. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Each Friday, the Shawnee Mission Post publishes a Johnson County vaccine FAQ, answering our readers’ questions about the process to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Johnson County.

If you have a question about vaccines you’d like answered, email us at stories@shawneemissionpost.com.

You can read our past FAQs on the county’s vaccine interest survey, state and county’s priority lists and the fairness of vaccine distribution.

This week’s FAQ focuses on questions from readers who want to know more about the pace of vaccination and vaccine supply.

Will the pace of vaccinations pick up soon? 

  • It’s quite possible, as county health officials expect to start getting more doses in their weekly allotment that comes through the state.
  • The Biden administration says it is boosting vaccine production, this week, and the president vowed there would be enough doses to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May.
  • This week, for the first time, Johnson County received more than 10,000 doses in a single week. That was due, in part, to an infusion of more than 3,000 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., the county’s health director, told county commissioners Thursday he was “optimistic” that Johnson County would start to see even more weekly doses than that in coming weeks.
  • In anticipation of needing to accommodate more vaccine administrations, the county is now leasing a Lenexa warehouse that will serve as the county’s vaccination hub going forward. Areola said the goal is to do up to 2,500 vaccinations a day at the warehouse.

Does getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine change anything about vaccine distribution in Johnson County?

  • The short answer is not yet.
  • This week, Johnson County received roughly 3,300 of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the state, but distribution of that vaccine won’t be occurring regularly after the current supply runs out.
  • Dr. Lee Norman, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this week that Kansas doesn’t expect to receive more Johnson & Johnson vaccines until at least March 23.
  • Still, county health officials welcomed the extra boost of vaccine this week.
  • “We don’t have enough vaccines to meet the need of everyone who wants it, so we are happy to take whatever we can get in our hands and we will be administering it as quickly as possible,” county director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh said.

What happens if other Kansas counties finish Phase 2 before Johnson County?

  • According to Areola, some smaller, more rural counties in Kansas are nearing the end of the state’s Phase 2 distribution, which focuses on people 65 and older, educators, first responders and essential workers like grocery story employees.
  • Johnson County is currently just about one-third of the way through Phase 2 groups.
  • Norman says counties cannot move to the next phase before each of Kansas’ 105 counties are able to. As counties with smaller populations begin to wrap up their Phase 2 clinics, they’ll receive smaller vaccine shipments and supplies will be redirected to larger counties like Johnson.
  • Overall, Johnson County which makes up just shy of 21% of Kansas’ population but has been receiving only about 14% of the state’s overall vaccine supply, which has frustrated local officials and residents.
  • “What we’d like to see is for our share of the vaccine to reflect our numbers,” Areola said.

How is the county dealing with people who either lie on their vaccine registration form or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated but still show up?

  • If you are not currently eligible to be vaccinated but still book an appointment through the county’s online system, Areola says you will not be vaccinated when you show up at a county clinic.
  • He said they have experienced some people either lying about their eligibility on the online form or mistakenly signing up for a vaccine appointment after someone else forwarded them a registration link.
  • Areola said having to turn someone away at the point of vaccination because they’re trying to jump the line wastes the county’s time and resources. It also could potentially take the spot of someone who — for age or job-related reasons — is in more urgent need of getting vaccinated.
  • “It is very destructive,” he said.

As a reminder, here is currently who is eligible to be vaccinated in Tier 1 of Phase 2 of the county’s vaccine rollout: 

  • People 65 and over
  • K-12 school staff and childcare providers
  • Any remaining health care workers who were not vaccinated as part of Phase
  • First responders, including police and firefighters

Who will be vaccinated next? 

  • JCDHE hopes to begin vaccinating other groups in Tier 1 of Phase 2 soon. Areola says vaccinations for grocery store workers could begin in the next few weeks.
  • People who are 64 and younger and have pre-existing conditions will be prioritized for vaccinations as part of Phases 3 and 4.
  • Eventually, everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it so “please be respectful of the order and the phases that we’re in,” Holzschuh said.

Again, if you have a question that could be answered in a future Johnson County vaccine FAQ, email us at stories@shawneemissionpost.com.