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Rural Kansas Getting COVID-19 Vaccine; 2nd Round To Be Short


TOPEKA — Doses from Kansas’ first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine were arriving Thursday in rural Kansas for hospitals to administer to health care workers, though the state expects its second shipment to be smaller than anticipated.

The state has received its full shipment of the first of two doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer for 23,750 people, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The state included nursing home workers and residents with at-risk health care workers in the first group to get the shots, but their vaccinations have not yet started, agency spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner said.

Jones-Wisner said the federal government told Kansas it would get a second shipment of 29,000 vaccine doses next week, but the state has since learned it will receive 17,750 doses instead. She did not elaborate.

Still, hospitals across the state were receiving at least a few doses from the first shipment, including in Cheyenne and Sherman counties in northwest Kansas, where there has been one confirmed or probable case for every 11 residents. Health care workers in Wichita, the state’s largest city, received their first shots Monday.

“There’s a lot of joy out there as it’s arriving,” said Cindy Samuelson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association. “It’s a layer of hope, which I think is much needed this year.”

In south-central Kansas, the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center picked intensive care unit nurse Kristy Sourk to be the first to get a shot Wednesday afternoon after she answered a survey describing her potential risk of getting the novel coronavirus. Sourk described herself as “ecstatic.” Her husband, a pulmonologist, got the second shot. The hospital’s 14 ICU beds are filled mostly with COVID-19 patients.

“It is like getting a dream come true. It is like you can’t even believe it is happening,” she said Thursday in an interview. “And I felt so blessed, just had so much gratitude to be able to get this vaccination.”

Dr. Beth Oller, a family physician in Rooks County in northwest Kansas, said some health care workers — like other residents in her county of about 5,000 — were wary of getting a shot. She said some of them worried that work on vaccines had been rushed.

A self-described “science geek,” she said she has no qualms about the vaccine’s safety or effectiveness and planned to get her shot Friday morning. Her husband, her in-laws and likely three of her children had COVID-19 over Thanksgiving, though she didn’t get infected. She said she’s not worried about potential side effects from the vaccine.

Oller said coronavirus patients she has treated, even younger ones, have suffered from headaches, brain fogs, and fatigue serious enough to require daily naps even after testing negative again.

“Anything I can take to help prevent that — sign me up, even if it gives me a headache and a mild fever,” she said.

It is likely to be months before vaccines are available to everyone, with the state expecting not to give shots to all adults who want them until at least late spring.

The state averaged nearly 2,400 new confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, 54 new hospitalizations and 33 deaths a day from Nov. 16 through Wednesday. It reported nearly 195,000 cases for the pandemic, or one for every 15 of its 2.9 million residents, and 2,253 deaths as of Wednesday.

“There’s still widespread community dissemination on COVID-19,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

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