Some Kansas counties turn down COVID vaccines as demand slows

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 3:35 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 16:35:07-04

MISSION, Kan. (AP) - Some Kansas counties are rejecting new COVID-19 vaccine shipments or reducing their orders because of decreased demand for the drugs, worrying health officials who say mass vaccinations are the only path to a return to normalcy.

Dennis Kriesel, the executive director of the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, said Friday that the shift occurred in the past couple weeks. The state opened up eligibility [] on March 29 to all residents 16 and older. That led to an increase in demand in mostly urban areas, but some rural counties already had begun to administer the vaccine to anyone of age who wanted one, Kriesel said.

Nearly four months into the vaccination effort, providers are beginning to run out of vaccine seekers even though only 35.9% of Kansas residents had been immunized as of Friday, state data shows.

"We always knew there would be a hesitancy factor that would kick in and we are starting to see that now," Kriesel said, adding that some other states also are beginning to see [] more supply than demand. "So people are starting to come up with ways to address concerns, address misinformation and then encourage people who don't really care that it would still be in their best interest to get a vaccine."

The suspension this week of the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine amid an investigation into several people who developed blood clots [] after receiving the drug is also causing problems in some counties where residents clamored for that specific brand, Kriesel said.

He said one thing that has been discussed is focusing vaccination efforts on older high school students.

In the Kansas City area, the 27,000 student Shawnee Mission School District, sent an email Friday to parents about optional vaccination clinics that will be offered during the school day at each of the high schools.

Health officials in Johnson County, which is the state's largest county, also are planning clinics for other districts in the area as cases begin to nudge upward there.

"Things can flip on a dime, unfortunately. We are not out of the woods," said Elizabeth Holzschuh, an epidemiologist with the county's health department, during a Facebook Live Thursday afternoon. "We were safer for five or six weeks, but we're starting to creep up and we don't know what next week will hold."