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In Depth: Northland coalition vaccinating 4,500 people every other week

Cerner vaccine clinic
Posted at 4:16 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 19:12:57-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A coalition comprised of city governments and health systems, along with the Cerner Corporation, opened its mass vaccination clinic this week for people who live or work in Clay County.

Operation Safe includes the Clay County Public Health Center (CCPHC), Liberty and North Kansas City hospitals, and the cities of Liberty, Gladstone, North Kansas City, Smithville, Kearney and Excelsior Springs.

This week, the group received 4,500 vaccine doses from the state, a shipment that is expected every other week.

The vaccine clinic is set up at Cerner's headquarters in the Northland, with 650 people working to keep it running smoothly.

"We've been in the fight with COVID for over 10 months, and now we're taking the fight back," Dr. Steve Reintjes, CEO of North Kansas City Hospital, said. "We're committing our people, our passion, our supply chain, our medical personnel and our IT infrastructure to this fight."

According to the assistant city administrator for North Kansas City, invitations to sign up for appointments were sent to eligible people who had filled out the public health center's COVID vaccine interest survey.

More than 45,000 people have filled out the form, and about 20,000 have indicated they fall within open vaccine tiers. Those include individuals who are 65 and older, as well as people with certain underlying health conditions.

Sandy Muir, a senior who secured an appointment for Friday morning, said getting her first dose was a huge relief.

"We've got to get out of the house. We are going nuts. I stand at my back door and I wave to my neighbors," Muir said. "I'm just excited as heck."

There was a slight hiccup in the sign-up process, as some individuals may have forwarded their appointment links to other people.

"We do have the ability to monitor when the volumes change. We could tell when the email was being forwarded," said Eva Karp, Cerner Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical and Patient Safety Officer. "We shut it down and then started doing phone calls to verify and give telephone invitations to the event."

Cerner has since clarified in new emails to eligible participants that their links will be invalid if shared with others.

Organizers emphasized people are screened when they show up for appointments. About 30 people who were ineligible were turned away on Thursday.

"When they do come to the event, we do look at their criteria. If they don't appear to meet the criteria, we might ask for credentials," Karp added.

NKC Assistant City Administrator Kim Nakahodo wrote in an email to 41 Action News that participants were asked to bring proof of residency or employment.

Still, one organizer acknowledged they also rely on people being honest about their circumstances.

"No system is foolproof, and so there would be opportunities for people to misrepresent themselves," CCPHC Director of Public Health Gary Zaborac said. "There's no system in place, no system that's 100 percent, and we recognize that. We do the best we can."

If it is determined someone is ineligible, the vaccine doses do not go to waste. Nakahodo said organizers call other people who have filled out the vaccine interest survey and have indicated they are in the proper tiers.

At the end of each day, Operation Safe leaders are meeting to discuss improvements that can be made to the clinic.

"The more efficient, the more effective you are in the delivery of those vaccines, we believe that the state will prioritize those areas that are doing the job that they're supposed to be doing," Zaborac said.