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Health department updates county commission on vaccine

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe

With the COVID-19 vaccine finally a reality in the U.S. and intended to make its way down the ladder to people everywhere, the Ford County Health Department’s Angela Sowers gave a rundown regarding the vaccine plan to Ford County Commissioners at the Dec. 21 meeting.

Sowers said that the multi-phase COVID-19 vaccination plan she is following is provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and is dependent upon the availability of the vaccine.

“Some of the priorities of whom gets vaccinated has already been decided for us, so it’s not up to me or any one at the office to decide how that works and who gets vaccinated,” said Sowers.

This first phase will have a limited amount of vaccine available and will prioritize healthcare personnel, specifically those that may be working in the ICU or COVID-19 units.

Included in the first phase of vaccination are the residents and faculty of long-term healthcare facilities.

It is understood by Sowers that the state of Kansas will be working in conjunction with local pharmacies, and that those pharmacies will go into those long-term care facilities and vaccinate residents and staff as supplies become available.

“So, what we’re doing is we’re making sure that if those facilities don’t have any vaccine yet or those pharmacies, which I don’t believe they do yet as of today, then we want to make sure at the health department that those that are working in the COVID unit are offered the vaccine, if they would like to take it,” said Sowers. “So that’s what we’re going to be working on too.”

EMS and frontline public healthcare workers are also part of the first phase of vaccination.

Within the phases there is going to be a “1A” and “1B” category, and the health department is still working through what defines which category and who it encompasses.

Going forward the vaccine becomes available in later phases to first responders, high risk individuals, then other adults and, lastly, as KDHE figures out how to administer the vaccine, to children 16 to 18 and under.

Regarding administering to adolescents, that part of the process is said to lead into the summer.

Sowers said that there is still a lot that the Ford County Health Department is unsure of for now, but they know that the vaccine is administered in two series, which means that a month from now that they will be held to certain practices and regulations to follow as the process is updated.

Western Plains Medical Complex is confirmed to already have a portion of the vaccine and their frontline workers are to be among the first to get vaccinated, as ensured by the health department.

With more of the vaccine arriving, the implementing of the phases is set to start this week, according to Sowers.

“Right now, just to put it in perspective for you, we might only get 100 doses, or we might get 200 doses, some of that is just unknown,” Sowers said. “But it’s not a one time, all or nothing, 'this is all you are going to get,' scenario.

"This is just for this first phase and as the vaccine becomes available more and more, then we’ll just keep working through the phases, probably into the summer.”

Due to limited cold storage capacity in most health departments, required for the Pfizer version of the vaccine, KDHE, and by default, Ford County will be issuing the Moderna version of the vaccine.

Since the Moderna vaccine is a two-dose procedure, the health department will not hold doses of the vaccine, and it is calculating its stock carefully to make sure that everyone gets two doses to complete vaccination as they work through the phases.

When asked how much time between doses there can be, Sowers said there is a four-day grace period that the health department is planning to work with.

Sower compared the spread-out nature of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccination process to other inoculations that can take up to three doses and that is why the health department can be trusted to help people set reminders to receive their second dose.

Like taking any other injection, people will be screened for other conditions, like allergies, and asked to fill out a consent form, and afterwards asked to temporarily remain with the health department for 15 or 20 minutes to monitor for any immediate reactions or side effects.

No rights are waived during the vaccination process and fact sheets about the Moderna vaccine can be issued, explaining things such as what constitutes it, for those that are concerned about that.