KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Arrowhead Stadium and the Overland Park Convention Center are among the sites being discussed as potential locations for new COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in Kansas and Missouri.
Overland Park City Councilman Faris Farassati believes the Overland Park Convention Center is another option for a large vaccination clinic.
“To use this facility in a way our people don’t have to wait in the cold, don’t have to wait outside, I definitely welcome and support that,” he said.
Hundreds of mostly senior citizens attended a vaccination event at the Okun Fieldhouse in Shawnee last week, and many waited outside in a long line in the cold before getting their dose.
Overland Park resident Phil Rauen took his 87-year-old mother Evelyn to the fieldhouse for her appointment. Photos he took of the line showed what he estimated were a couple hundred people waiting in the cold, which Rauen said was "daunting" because most of the people in line were older than 80.
However, Rauen said the line moved quickly, his mom was inside within eight minutes and she was vaccinated and on her way home in less than 45 minutes.
Farassati first raised the possibility of using the convention center as a mass vaccination site in an email to Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach and City Manager Bill Ebel on Jan. 15 – well before people waited outside in the cold at Okun Fieldhouse.
Dr. Sanmi Areola, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment director, said he received an email on Wednesday, Jan. 27 from the city offering the use of the convention center.
"I will be making the call and talking to them and seeing what we can do with that,” Areola said.
Rauen said he liked the idea.
"That’s centrally located, people know where it is,” Rauen said.
Several people have reached out to the county, according to Areola, offering "advice and spaces and other resources."
"Thankfully, we're in a county with resources that are available to assist Johnson County in doing all of this," Areola said.
In Missouri, the home of the Super Bowl bound Chiefs could also be used a mass vaccination site.
Chiefs President Mark Donovan said Tuesday the team has been in ongoing discussions with the city of Kansas City, Jackson County and the state of Missouri.
He also said the Chiefs would need a lot of logistical support from the parties in charge to manage the process.
“We stand ready," Donovan said. "We’ve made that very clear to the folks we’ve been in discussions with and hopefully, we can do that sometime soon."
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s Office already has set up weekly rotating mass vaccination sites across the state, including the Kansas City region.
This week, the metro region’s clinic will run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or until the supply runs out on Friday at First Baptist Church in Clinton, Missouri.
A spokesperson for Parson said eligible patients should pre-register with both their doctor and county health department.
The idea is to get as many people vaccinated like Evelyn Rauen – as quickly as possible.
She hasn’t been able to hug her grandchildren for about a year and has only seen them outside and at a distance.
“Never really inside for almost a year, so you do what you have to do,” Phil Rauen said.
Evelyn Rauen is scheduled to receive her second of two vaccinations on Feb. 17.
Areola said the Johnson County Health Department won’t be able to take care of everybody, and private clinics and pharmacies also will need to help.
There have been talks with HyVee and Walmart to have resources ready, according to Areola.
Dr. Erica Carney, Kansas City, Missouri, medical director, said that at the current rate of vaccinations, it will take more than two years for everyone to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and efforts need to be doubled, if not tripled.
“A lot of that is going to take the political pressure on the governor to release more vaccine to us, so that way we can get this done," Carney said.
In a statement provided to 41 Action News, Parson's office said vaccinations are going "very well."
"Missourians must continue to understand that the demand right now far outweighs the supply," the statement said. "Until the supply can catch-up, Missourians must be patient and be very considerate of others."