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Only COVID-19 vaccine option for teens not available in many KS counties

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansans between the ages of 16 and 18 are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but their options are limited. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for teens younger than 18, but many counties across the state don’t have it.

The Pfizer vaccine is less accessible in rural areas than it is in urban areas like Wichita and Kansas City. Eyewitness News spoke with a woman from Ellis County who said she had to drive two hours to get her grandchildren vaccinated.

“They brought COVID home from Hays High in November. I don’t want to go through that again,” said Julie Harold who cares for her two teenage grandchildren.

Working part-time jobs, visiting colleges and going to school each day, Harold said her grandchildren want to be proactive and get their shots now to protect against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one the FDA says 16 and 17-year-olds can get, but in Ellis County, the only options are Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

“It’s been crazy the last four days trying to find (Pfizer doses) and get it scheduled,” Harold said.

It’s a similar situation in other counties across Kansas. The state isn’t sending them Pfizer vaccines since they don’t have the capacity to store the thousand-dose shipments. But some private pharmacies in the rural counties might since many get their shipments from the federal government.

To track down where she can get the needed doses for her grandchildren, Harold used the website, vaccinefinder.org, searching zip code after zip code to find a pharmacy with Pfizer.

“Just kind of worked my way down I-70, Goodland, Colby, WaKeeney, Hays, Salina,” Harold said.

Finally, she found one at a pharmacy in Hutchinson. She scheduled the appointment two hours away. Now, studies show the Pfizer vaccine is also effective in kids 12 to 15 years old.

“The efficacy was 100 percent. We don’t basically have another vaccine like that,” said Mayo Clinic Rochester (Minn). Vaccine Research Group Director Dr. Greg Poland.

If it’s an emergency approved for children by the FDA, even more young Kansans could be searching for the Pfizer vaccine.

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