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Here's The Latest On Where And How To Get A COVID Vaccine In Kansas

Brian Grimmett
Kansas News Service
Sedgwick County set up a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita in late December, as it prepared to vaccinate health care workers.

More than a quarter of Kansans have gotten at least their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. And starting March 29, all Kansans ages 16 and up will be eligible for the shots.

This article offers tips for where to get vaccinated. Some counties have longer wait times than others. If that's the case in your area, you can consider traveling to another county. Some do not restrict shots to their residents.

Toward the end of this article, you’ll find graphs to help you keep track of how bad COVID is in Kansas right now.

If you are seeking information about COVID testing, here's how to get a free test.

Who can get the vaccine in Kansas?

Kansas began Phases 3 and 4 of its vaccine plan on March 22. Phase 5 starts on March 29 and covers everyone at least 16 years old. It's the final phase of the vaccine rollout, and is starting months earlier than expected, as shown on the state's original timeline:

Phases in the state's vaccine plan.

Getting the shot from a county health department

The state's weekly allotment gets split up among the counties. You can see how many doses have been sent to your county here.

Check whether your county health department has a sign-up sheet on its website, its Facebook page, or by calling the department.

Getting the shot at a hospital

Some counties send some of the stock they receive each week to local hospitals or clinics, and ask them to give the shots to their patients who meet Phase 2 criteria. Kansas has launched an online mapwhere you can see if a hospital or other site near you offers the vaccine. If so, ask how you can get in line.

Getting the shot at a community health center

The Biden administration also started sending doses directly to clinics focused on populations that struggle with access to health care, such as rural and low-income communities. A few examples include the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas and GraceMed Health Clinic in Wichita.

Getting the shot at a pharmacy

Some major pharmacy chains receive doses through a separate federal program that bypasses the state health department to send doses directly to retail sites.

Kansas links to the list of participating stores here. That list may change over time as the federal program grows. If you see a location near you on the list, try calling the store or booking a dose through the pharmacy chain's website.

What about doctor's offices and independent pharmacies?

As more doses become available, a wider variety of places will likely give the shots. Those locations will show up on the Kansas vaccine map.

What will the vaccine cost me? What if I don’t have health insurance?

The federal government is distributing the doses to states for now. You won’t get charged for those.

No one should charge you a fee for sticking the needle in your arm, either. Your insurance company may pay something for that, but not you. If you have no insurance, the hospital or pharmacy can bill a special federal fund earmarked for this purpose.

So you shouldn’t ever get a bill. Even if you go to a doctor or hospital outside your insurance network.

Here come the caveats. Advocates and academics who study this stuff are nervously watching to see what happens. They’re concerned some hospitals or clinics will hit people with something to the effect of “facility fees.”

One way to try to avoid this could be to get the shot at a pharmacy or county health department instead of a hospital or hospital-affiliated facility, if that becomes an option for you in your area.

Other loopholes could affect people who have pseudo-health plans, such as Farm Bureau and religion-based shared ministry products that don't have to follow insurance laws. Some insurance plans also still exist that got special permission to ignore the federal law that guarantees vaccine coverage.

If you get billed for your shots, we want to hear about it. Email celia (at) kcur (dot) org.

Where can I read details about how the vaccines work, how much time should pass between doses, etc.?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this FAQ on the vaccines.

People shouldn’t get the vaccine if they’ve had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past.

The CDC has more information on its website for people with underlying health conditions and those who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

How bad is the coronavirus in Kansas right now?

In recent weeks, hospitalization rates have fallen significantly from their peak in November, December and January. Scientists and public health officials urge the public to keep wearing masks and to stay several feet from other people whenever possible, so that the trend will continue.

Here are the latest statistics on hospitalizations and deaths, which we update regularly.

We chose these statistics to show trends, which experts say are more reliable than focusing on day-to-day fluctuations.

The cumulative case count across Kansas

The map below shows the total number of confirmed cases in each county in Kansas, but note that most of these people have gotten well, and their infections aren’t active.

Hover over your county to see how many cases have been reported there.

Nearly 300,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Kansas. The true figure is doubtlessly much higher, but the state remains far from herd immunity regardless.

Studies show that even the hardest hit states in the country have not approached the natural exposure levels that might lead to herd immunity. Yet already, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died.

This is why public health experts advocate for the vaccine to get to herd immunity while stopping the tide of deaths.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is based in the Kansas News Service’s Topeka newsroom. She writes about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. He aims to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.