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Starting Monday, March 22, Kansas will move on to the next part of its vaccination rollout, which will include both Phases 3 and 4.
The biggest group of residents who will become eligible in these next two phases are adults ages 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions —including cancer, obesity, asthma and diabetes — which could make COVID-19 infection potentially more severe.
Johnson County remains in the midst of vaccinating individuals in Phase 2, which includes adults 65 and older, educators and food service workers, among other groups.
Because of its size, Johnson County has lagged behind many of the state’s smaller, less populated counties, which have finished up Phase 2 vaccinations and are ready to move on.
Plans to begin Phase 3 & 4 vaccinations
County health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., said this week that the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment plans to vaccinate individuals in Phases 2, 3 and 4 simultaneously going forward.
Earlier this week, the county opened up an online survey for all Johnson County residents to complete in order to express their interest in getting vaccinated. Previously, only individuals eligible in Phases 1 and 2 were encouraged to fill out the interest survey.
To fill out the vaccine interest form for all phases, click here. If you’ve already completed a form for Phase 1 or 2, do not fill out the new form. Individuals are also urged not to fill out the survey multiple times.
Vaccine supply so far has been relatively limited, leading to widespread frustration and confusion as residents have tried to secure appointments.
Health officials at both the county and state level are banking on federal vaccine supply picking up soon, rendering anxieties about securing a place in line less of an issue. President Joe Biden recently vowed that all American adults who wanted a vaccine would be able to get one by May 1.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done — this battle isn’t over,” said Dr. Lee Norman, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “We are in this together, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Vaccine timeline going forward
On Monday, Gov. Laura Kelly said she announced the progression to the next stage of the vaccination process a week in advance, in part, to give larger counties, like Johnson, a chance to catch up with Phase 2 vaccinations.
JCDHE officials did say they expected some additional doses this week that had been reallocated from other counties that were done with Phase 2.
About 150,000 people have been eligible to get vaccinated in Johnson County under Phase 2, but Areola estimates that expanding to Phases 3 and 4 next week could double that number.
“It just emphasizes the need for patience,” Areola said. “The next four and five weeks is going to be very busy in the county.”
So far, the county says more than 135,000 first doses have been administered in Johnson County. That total includes vaccinations administered at county-run clinics, as well as those given at local hospitals and retail pharmacies.
Kelly expressed hope this week that the next part of Kansas’ vaccine rollout would proceed on a quicker timetable than previous phases because federal supplies are increasing.
“Our biggest barrier to delivering vaccines has been the national shortage,” Kelly said. “If the Biden administration delivers on its commitment, we anticipate that we will finish combination Phase 3 and 4 by late April.”
Here’s a look at the overall trends in Johnson County:
In Johnson County, the decline in new cases continued last week.
The positivity rate fell from about 3.2% to 2.8% — the lowest that metric been in months.
Meanwhile, there was also an unusual drop in the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, the first time the Shawnee Mission Post had noticed such an occurrence.
JCDHE explained that the decline in the deaths total came about because at least six deaths originally assigned to Johnson County by Kansas health officials had been transferred to other jurisdictions because they turned out to be linked to zip codes outside Johnson County.
“The information about deaths due to COVID-19 are provisional until they are verified by KDHE,” JCDHE spokesperson Barbara Mitchell told the Post via email. “Sometimes that process takes a while. The metric is adjusted when the KDHE ruling on deaths due to COVID-19 are finalized.”
As of Wednesday, March 17, data from JCDHE puts new cases per 100,000 residents at 79. That’s 10 fewer than the week before.
This story has been updated to include comments from JCDHE regarding the drop in reported deaths.