62 Kansas counties turning away latest vaccine shipments

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 8:38 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -Sixty two Kansas counties won’t get COVID-19 vaccine shipments this week because they say, there aren’t enough unvaccinated people who want the shot. About 34 percent of Kansans have received at least one does of COVID-19 vaccine, but that is still a long way from herd immunity.

For rural counties across Kansas, the current situation with the vaccine is opposite what it was a few months ago. Earlier this year, there weren’t enough doses for the number of people who wanted a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, with reluctance or refusal from people yet to get the shot, counties are rejecting more shipments that would go unused.

The vaccination rate in some rural counties is higher than in urban ones, but he percentage of people vaccinated has barely risen in weeks. A handful of counties have been rejecting shipments for the past three or four weeks. Last week was the first time Barton County has ever turned down doses.

“Up to last week, we had accepted every shipment that was allotted to us,” Barton County Health Director Karen Winkelman said. “At that point, we felt we had an adequate supply for our needs.”

Now, the county is beginning to allow walk-in vaccine appointments in hopes that it will encourage more people to get the shot. With the statewide vaccine rate at 34 percent, it’s estimated that Kansas is about halfway to herd immunity.

Kansas Association of Local Health Departments Executive Director Dennis Kriesel said the vaccine plateau was expected, but not this soon.

“We knew we would most likely face a plateau prior to the herd immunity threshold, which depending on who you ask, is probably between 60 and 80 percent of the population,” Kriesel said. “So while I think most public health officials were anticipating we wouldn’t get to 60 percent before having to confront the hesitancy issue. It’s arriving sooner than I anticipated.”

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