OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly expressed some empathy for vaccine-hesitant individuals Friday during a press conference with two Kansas City-area doctors at Saint Luke’s South Hospital.
“I know some Kansans are not sure because the vaccine has not received full authorization yet from the FDA,” Kelly said. “That will change soon. The authorization process is comprehensive, it’s diligent and it takes time.”
Full authorization could come as soon as Monday, according to a report citing The New York Times.
Kelly didn’t dismiss the “trepidation that some unvaccinated Kansans are facing, but I want to be clear much of this uncertainty is caused by blatantly false information,” she said. “This misinformation has caused preventable sickness and preventable death.”
She also expressed optimism that Kansas had not passed “the point of no return.”
“Armed with the COVID-19 vaccine, we can stop the delta variant before it overwhelms our state,” Kelly said. “I know that’s what every Kansan wants. ... The idea of more quarantines, more hospitalizations, more deaths is draining and disheartening after all we’ve been through the last 18 months — especially for those of you who are vaccinated, those of you who wore masks and practiced public health protocols, those of you that did everything right. You’re being asked to sacrifice now because of those who have not. I understand your frustration. I understand your anger.”
Approximately 170 million U.S. residents are fully vaccinated with more than 360.6 million vaccine doses administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s a lot of background noise out there right now, which is why we have to put aside the frustration, the anger and the division, and instead listen to our doctors,” Kelly said. “We can’t lose sight of our shared goal to get our lives back to normal. That means, if you’re not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. Do it today. Do it for your health, for the health of your children and for the health of your communities. For those of you who are vaccinated, I thank you. Please speak with your friends, your neighbors and your loved ones who are not vaccinated. Encourage them. Take them to get vaccinated to protect themselves, to protect our state, to protect you.”
Kelly called it an “urgent” moment for Kansas.
“We don’t have to relive the days of uncertainty we faced a year ago,” she said. “The tools we need to protect our hospitals, to protect our children and to return to normal are readily available to us. We have a vaccine, our economy is strong, and with a commitment from every Kansan, we can get this done.”
Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician specializing in neonatology at Children’s Mercy Hospital, stressed that it's OK to have questions and fears about the pandemic, the vaccine or anything else related to COVID-19.
“Talk to your doctor,” she said. “They are trained for this.”
Kelly also addressed the contentious issue of mask mandates in public schools.
She said school boards face pressure “from near and far,” which prompted many to make masks optional — a decision she hopes those boards will reconsider.
“There may have been hope that this virus would only spread and show symptoms among adults, but we know from what we’ve heard this morning and from other evidence that unequivocally proves that record numbers of children are catching the virus, being hospitalized and tragically even dying from COVID,” Kelly said.
But again, the solutions are evident and readily available — including masking, which helped control the spread of the virus last year in schools.
“Child infections are preventable in schools if we work together and listen to the doctors,” Kelly said. “I urge every school board across Kansas that hasn’t already to implement mask requirements in their schools. Until the vaccine is approved for children under 12, masks can prevent students from quarantine, from getting very sick and dying from COVID-19.”
Kelly called claims that masks don’t work “just wrong,” adding, “We need to dismiss that kind of misinformation and listen to the facts. The facts are vaccinations are safe and masks work.”
Hubbard shared similar advice.
“Get vaccinated,” she said. “If you have a child that is eligible to get vaccinated, get them vaccinated. Secondly, wear a mask, especially when you’re out in public and you can’t be socially distanced.”