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Kansas health workers begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine, urge public to follow

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 12:37 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP and KWCH) — Update Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020: A spokesperson for Wesley Medical Center on Tuesday said the hospital began giving out its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, one day after the vaccine became available to healthcare workers with Ascension Via Christi.

Dr. Maurice Duggins withy Ascension Via Christi said the only thing he felt when he received the vaccine was soreness at the injection site. He said it’s important for every race, especially minorities, to get the vaccine when it’s available to the public.

“I would expect and encourage everyone to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them, especially African Americans, people of color, Latinos, Latinx community, and our Native Americans because it has affected these communities worse than it has our Caucasian community,” Dr. Duggins said.

Dr. Tom Moore with Wesley Medical Center said he tested positive for COVID-19 and has the antibodies of the virus. With this, he said he will give his spot up to someone who doesn’t have antibodies. He said he will still receive the vaccine when it’s more readily available.

“We need everyone to get a vaccine because that’s the only way that this virus is going to go away,” Dr. Moore said. “If we don’t get everyone vaccinated then we might as well just leave it on the shelf and forget this whole business. Continue masking and social distancing until it goes away, which would be never.”

Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns said it’s hard to predict who’s most susceptible to COVID-19 and he views the decision to get the vaccine as an easy choice to make.

“It’s a whole lot better to have an achy arm for a couple of days than to get this virus,” he said.

Monday, Dec. 14, 2020:

Kansas health care workers on Monday began receiving the first of the state’s coronavirus vaccines amid an ongoing fall surge in cases that has left hospitals stressed.

Five employees of the Via Christi Ascension health care system received shots at its St. Francis hospital in Wichita, including a critical care nurse, a housekeeper for a COVID-19 unit and a respiratory therapist, according to spokeswoman Roz Hutchinson. On Monday, nearly 100 doctors and nurses were vaccinated at St. Francis hospital. Vaccinations at Wesley Medical Center will start later this week.

Doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer began arriving in Kansas after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized its emergency use Friday. Kansas officials expect the state to receive the first of two doses for 23,750 people this week, but it likely will be months before a vaccine is available to everyone. With that, hospitals stress that we are nowhere near close to herd immunity and now is not the time to relax precautions.

At 11:12 a.m. local time, Kristen Garrett, RN, Critical Care Nurse, Ascension Via Christi in Wichita, received the...

Posted by Ascension Via Christi on Monday, December 14, 2020

State officials weren’t saying Monday where the first vaccines were going after arriving at cold-storage sites. Kansas also isn’t disclosing where the vaccine is being stored before distribution, citing security reasons.

The state’s vaccine distribution plan calls for giving the first shots to health care workers at high risk of coronavirus exposure, including workers in nursing homes, as well as nursing home patients. Other essential workers would receive shots in the second phase of the distribution, including first responders but also grocery and meatpacking plant workers.

Kansas officials hope to receive the first of two doses of a vaccine made by Moderna for 49,000 people later this month, though the FDA has yet to authorize its emergency use.

Kansas averaged more than 2,400 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day from Nov. 1 through Friday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environment. It has reported more than 185,000 cases since the pandemic reached the state in early March, or one for every 16 of its 2.9 million residents.

The state also reported 5,800 hospitalizations and 2,072 deaths as of Friday.

“It has been very hard. My partners and I have seen our patients in pretty abnormal and strenuous circumstances and a lot of really hard, family and patient conversations, you know, surrounding much more death than we’re used to dealing with on a daily or weekly basis,” said Dr. Shauna Kern with Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. “So to start to see the light a little bit is very relieving to me and my team.”

Dr. Kern was one of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas. The milestone comes as the pandemic approaches another surge after Thanksgiving.

“It has been difficult in our field for the last nine months and it’s been getting progressively more difficult because the patients continue to be sicker,” said Dr. Chloe Steinshouer who treats patients at both Wesley and Ascension Via Christi hospitals. “We continue to have more of our health care staff ill and we are just overwhelmingly busy. And that got very bad leading up to Thanksgiving. We’ve had a slight decrease over a week or so and now we’re already starting to see Thanksgiving cases come in, and we’re starting to get much busier again.”

Dr. Steinshouer said the vaccine won’t have an immediate impact and hospitalizations and cases won’t likely decrease until it’s available to the public. However, the vaccine will help to solve some challenges for hospitals, as eliminating some of the risk for frontline workers will cut down on staffing shortages.

“This is something that we have been waiting for,” Dr. Steinshouer said. “As a pulmonary and critical care physician, my job is to go in and out of these rooms over and over, and so these are the people who are aerosolized in this virus over and over, and so we have recurrent exposure. We wear a lot of protective equipment. As you can see, this will reduce the likelihood that I get this, which with how often I am exposed to it is incredibly exciting news.”

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