Kansas City-area health officials reiterate delta variant concerns amid low vaccinations

Posted at 9:43 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 00:01:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kansas City metro health officials continue to voice concerns about low vaccination rates as the COVID-19 delta variant spreads throughout the country.

Dr. Matt Gratton, associate chief medical officer at Truman Medical Center, told 41 Action News that health care workers are keeping a close eye on what's happening in southwest Missouri.

"They are at a crisis stage," Gratton said. "They’re not out of ventilators yet, but they’re out of beds and out of staff to take care of the sick patients. And the patients keep flowing in from the smaller surrounding communities where the vaccination rate is really low."

Mercy Hospital Springfield has opened a sixth COVID-19 ward and is requiring that employees be vaccinated, in part, because of the uptick in virus cases.

Gratton said because the delta variant is more transmissible, if more people aren't vaccinated, the concern goes up another level for people in the Kansas City metro.

"Could we get like that in Kansas City?" Gratton said. "Well yeah, absolutely. Our vaccination rate is not where we would want it to be."

A change in demand for the vaccine also concerns people like Aaron Deacon, who works with Comeback KC, a public/private partnership aimed at helping the area recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’s a lot different," Deacon said. "Everyone who wanted it right away got it, and now it’s one at a time. I’m a little bit worried about the delta variant, but even more worried about if it keeps going unchecked through the community and mutates into something worse."

Comeback KC has provided a mobile unit bring the vaccine into several communities. The group also made several billboards – and, soon, bus ads – in different languages urging people to get the vaccine.

"We really want not [to] be in a situation, let’s say six months from now, where things go back and things close down again or people are dying or getting sick," Deacon said.

Concerns also lie within community groups like the Independence Square Association, which also has promoted vaccinations so businesses can stay open and events can continue.

"For us, it’s extremely important that we’re able to fully return to that society that we used to know," Jeff Rogers, executive director of the Independence Square Association, said, "and until we get that herd immunity in place, we’re not going to be able to return."

The strategy now, according to Rogers, is to provide shots where people are at – like Moonlight Movie Night from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday in Independence, or during big events.

"We do expect to have vaccinations available during the Santa-Cali-Gon event," Rogers said. "Really at any type of event, we’re looking for opportunities for that to take place."

Health leaders said the best way to protect oneself and others, and prevent hospitalization, is to be vaccinated.

"The patients that we have as inpatients at Truman have not been vaccinated and so it’s extremely protective," Gratton said.