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Sedgwick County struggling to meet demand with vaccine supply low, appointments booked

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 7:40 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - While Sedgwick County is on to Phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, there are frustrations for many with the supply running out. Currently, all appointments to be vaccinated have been booked and only those 83 and older are eligible for a vaccine in Sedgwick County.

Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne explained why the limit is to 83-year-olds when Phase 2 is supposed to include people who are 65 and older. The current tighter age restriction is due to the lack of supply. The 83-plus mark was decided using Census data, Byrne said.

She said about 11,000 Sedgwick County residents are 80 or older with more people in their low 80s, compared to 90-plus.

“Due to limited vaccine supply, which was less than 2,000 that we received with our first allotment last week, we first opened up to 90 years (and older), but those appointments weren’t filling up as quickly,” Byrne said.

So, the county decided to expand to a point it could work with.

“We didn’t want to go all the way to 80 because of knowing there’s 11,000 people 80 and older,” Byrne said. “So (we) just picked a mid-age and made it 83. It was a little bit of a guess, but based on data at the same time.”

On Monday (Jan. 25), Byne said the county expected additional vaccines to arrive either Tuesday or Wednesday and expects to add more slots for people to get vaccinated. Citing safety concerns due to the weather, the county did not administer vaccines to older residents on Monday.

“We do expect additional vaccine in this week. And when we do, we will add more slots,” Byrne said. “... When we get that vaccine, our goal is to get everybody, as many as we can get, vaccinated in a week period of time with that vaccine.”

With the Pfizer vaccine, the health department is focused on administering the first dose to people in Phase 2 of the vaccine distribution plan, while administering the second dose to people in Phase 1, including healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Much of the frustration with the delays and vaccine shortage comes from people who are at least 65, but not yet able to schedule an appointment. More than 70,000 people in Sedgwick County are older than 65. Byrne has a message for them.

“We are just starting at the older, more vulnerable, and working (our) way down,” she said. “What I’ve been telling the 65 65 to 75-year-olds, ‘you’re too young, who knew?’” But they just have to give us some time. Everyone is going to get vaccinated. I know it can’t happen quickly enough.”

While the focus is getting more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinating as many people as possible, Byrne said there are plans for mobile units, expanding vaccination sites from the clinic currently established at INTRUST Bank Arena.

“As we get more vaccine, there’s just more things that are going to occur,” she said. “Right now, everything is at INTRUST.”

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