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Officials urge patience on vaccine shots

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Area public health directors are urging patience from citizens regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, with demand understandably high but supplies still limited.

For example, while the state of Missouri says it activated the second tier of Phase 1B in its COVID-19 vaccination plan Monday, the Jackson County Health Department says it continues to prioritize the health-care workers as listed in Phase 1A of the state’s program.

“We know many area residents are eager to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” the metro area health directors, including Jackson County’s Bridgette Shaffer, said in a joint statement Thursday. “We are working closely with state partners and with other health organizations designated as vaccinators by the states to coordinate and distribute the vaccine. We are working to ensure everyone who wants to be vaccinated is served.”

“Each state has slightly different groups included in each phase of the vaccine distribution. The first phase is to ensure frontline health care workers, along with residents and staff of long-term nursing facilities, are protected first.”

In Missouri, Phase 1A includes long-term care facility residents and staff, patient-facing health-care workers and EMS/EMT workers and paramedics. The Health Department said it scheduled 2,000 vaccinations last week, and the week before, all 975 available doses were given out.

The first tier of Phase 1B in the state’s plan includes first responders, emergency services and public health infrastructure. The second tier includes high-risk individuals and people 65 and older.

Jackson County, like some other public health departments, has an online survey form to sign up for a vaccination or to receive notifications when they’re eligible to sign up.

In recent weeks, the pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens have been giving vaccine shots to staff and residents at large area long-term care facilities such as The Groves, Villages at Jackson Creek and John Knox Village.

A couple reminders from public health directors:

• Vaccinations will be conducted by appointment only, so don’t arrive at vaccinations otherwise seeking a vaccine.

• Anyone registered to get the vaccine must commit to their appointment to help ensure vaccine doses are not wasted.

• Even as the vaccine is distributed and you receive it, people should continue to follow basic precautions such as staying home when sick, wearing masks, regularly washing hands, avoiding large crowds and keeping social distance whenever possible to continue fighting COVID-19 spread.

The city of Independence, which reinstated its health department last month, said it anticipates distributing vaccinations in February, though that depends in part on availability. Some police and fire first responders have received their initial shots through local hospitals, the city says.

The city also said it plans to build its own dashboard of COVID-19 case and testing data, once it is able to hire some staff for data analysis and the state is able to reformat its data reporting. Currently, Independence information is part of Jackson County’s data dashboard, as the county department covers the county outside of Kansas City.

According to the county’s dashboard, the rolling 14-day average of positive tests in Eastern Jackson County was at 32.3 percent on Monday, dropping from the low 40s through early January. The rolling seven-day average of new cases was at 89 on Monday, down from 163 a week earlier and in the 170s and 180s through early January. 

The overall positive test percentage has held steady at more than 19 percent, with more than 134,700 people tested.

The department has confirmed more than 1,300 additional cases and 29 additional deaths since a week ago Monday, for 26,854 total cases and 291 deaths across EJC since the pandemic began.