PITTSBURG, Kan. — This week marked a massive milestone in the fight against COVID-19 as the first round of Pfizer vaccines were distributed to front-line healthcare workers across the country, including in Kansas.
While the implementation of a vaccine is seen by many in the scientific community as a victory against the disease, for the general public it’s seemed to only bring up more questions and fears such as: when can I get it? What is it made out of? How safe is it?
In an effort to answer some of those questions, on Friday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly held her a conference call with the state’s leading COVID-19 officials to outline how Kansas will distribute the vaccine going forward.
“The framework is in line with CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices,” Kelly said. “It directly illustrates the administration's commitment to prioritizing those on the front line of our pandemic response or those disproportionally affected by the virus.”
The governor’s timeline for distribution focuses first on frontline healthcare workers, then those in long term care facilities and at-risk adults, with the vaccine then becoming more available to all adults by spring or summer of 2021.
“With this framework, we’ll protect the greatest number of Kansans and be sure to foster economic recovery and get our kids back in school buildings as quickly and safely as possible,” Kelly said.
The state has already run into some issues with the Pfizer vaccine as it was reported earlier this week that the state as a whole would only receive 17,550 doses as opposed to the originally promised 28,000. Additionally, numbers have continued to rise with the state reaching over 200,000 positive cases this week and COVID-19 related deaths increasing to 2,341. In Crawford County, numbers were down with only 160 new positive cases, but the county did see three more Covid-related deaths, bringing the total up to 26.
However, according to KDHE Secretary Lee Norman, Kansas frontline healthcare workers are largely excited for the vaccine. Norman said he even heard reports of one hospital in Lindsborg calling the cooler with the doses the “box of hope.”
"I thought that was very reflective of the sentiment we’re seeing with a bit more optimism,” Norman said. “This was a difficult but very gratifying week.”
In Pittsburg, distribution of the vaccine to healthcare workers — mostly those working directly with COVID-19 patients — began earlier this week as it did for most hospitals in the state. According to Crawford County Deputy Health Officer Linda Bean, both major hospitals in the area — Via Christi in Pittsburg and Girard Medical Center — have begun distribution.
“Via Christi has given 107 doses and anticipate giving another 50 doses today, and Girard has given 45 doses and have about five more doses available to give,” Bean said at the Crawford County Commission meeting on Friday.
Bean said Community Health of Southeast Kansas hopes to get its allotted doses next week or at least hear about when they will arrive. She said once CHCSEK gets its doses it will start getting it out to healthcare workers.
“A couple of really good things happening, which we need right now,” Bean said. “I’m happy to be able to report them.”