Johnson County Vaccine FAQ: Is Johnson County getting its fair share of vaccines from Kansas?

Kansas vaccine fair share

Johnson County health officials have complained in the past that the county wasn't getting its proportionate share of vaccines being distributed by the state of Kansas. Still, in recent weeks, the pace of vaccine distribution has picked up. Next week, Johnson County is expected to get nearly 20,000 doses, its biggest weekly allotment to date. File photo.

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Each Friday, the Shawnee Mission Post publishes a Johnson County vaccine FAQ, answering some commonly asked 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.

This week’s FAQ focuses on how decisions about vaccine allotment are being made a the state level and how may be impacting dose distribution in Johnson County.

How does Kansas determine how many  doses each county gets?

  • As Kansas’ most populous county, Johnson County receives the largest number of vaccines by volume, followed closely by Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties, but that’s not the only variable at play.
  • Gov. Laura Kelly’s COVID-19 coordination adviser Dr. Marci Nielsen told the Shawnee Mission Post two other criteria for determining how many doses a county gets each week: the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, plus a county’s ability to store vaccines locally.

OK, so how does the Social Vulnerability Index help determine how many doses Johnson County gets? 

  • The Social Vulnerability Index uses U.S. Census data “to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters,” according to the CDC.
  • For COVID-19 vaccination, it identifies areas and jurisdictions that have higher concentrations of people at risk for developing more serious COVID-19 infections, which enables local health officials to vaccinate equitably.
  • That means some Kansas counties with fewer people than Johnson County may be getting disproportionately bigger allotments of vaccines because of different factors, including counties’ socio-economic and racial demographics.

And what about a county’s ability to store vaccines? How does that factor in?

  • Larger counties like Johnson County receive primarily Pfizer vaccines from the state because those vaccines come in larger shipments and require colder, more specialized storage, Nielsen said. (For details on why, read this NPR explainer.)
  • On the other hand, smaller, more rural counties have been receiving mostly Moderna vaccines because they come in smaller quantities and do not require the same ultra-cold freezers the Pfizer vaccine does.
  • However, some Moderna vaccines are expected in Johnson County next week. Those are intended for private health care providers that are registered vaccine providers with KDHE, according to county health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D.

Is Johnson County receiving its fair share of the COVID-19 vaccines?

  • It depends on who you ask. And when you asked them.
  • Nielsen, Gov. Kelly’s COVID-19 coordinator, says yes, Johnson County is getting its fair share: “Johnson County, it is right where it should be — kind of middle of the pack — based on the number of people in Johnson County [who are eligible].”
  • But Johnson County has lagged behind other smaller counties throughout Kansas’ vaccine rollout in terms of its proportionate share of vaccines. In January, Areola said that he felt like he was “begging” the state to send more vaccines to Johnson County.
  • On Thursday, Areola said he doesn’t see the number of vaccines coming into the county as a problem with proportional allocation but more a symptom of lingering nationwide issues with supply. That, he added, is out of Johnson County’s control and out of the state’s control.
  • Next week, Johnson County is expected to get nearly 20,000 doses, its biggest weekly shipment from the state to date.

What’s the plan for vaccine distribution to private doctors?

  • Next week, Johnson County is expected to receive about 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine meant for private health care providers to administer to their patients.
  • These are in addition to local hospital systems, like AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and Olathe Medical Center, which have already been conducting their own clinics for weeks.
  • The ability to administer vaccines through primary care physicians will help use relationships between residents and their regular doctor to potentially reach more people, Areola said.
  • Health care providers that administer vaccines in their offices must be registered vaccine providers with KDHE, and JCDHE wants to give vaccines to any private physician that wants to administer them.

Our previous FAQs: