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Facing Declining Demand For Vaccinations, Sedgwick County Opens Clinic To Walk-ins

Nadya Faulx
KMUW/File photo
People in line for their vaccine at the county's main clinic in downtown Wichita.

Starting Monday, walk-ins will be allowed at Sedgwick County’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic inside the former central library in downtown Wichita.

The county has required appointments since the clinic opened in late December, but is shifting to the new strategy to get more people vaccinated against the disease. The online scheduling portal on the county’s websitewill still be available for appointments.

“In addition to mobile clinics and outreach, going out into the community, we’re trying to expand that by opening up to walk-ins at the clinic, hoping that might encourage some people to come in,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne.

She said walk-ins are already allowed at mobile vaccination sites, but some clinics at community partner sites like churches require appointments. Those appointments are made through each facility, not the county website.

Demand for first dose vaccination appointments started dropping a few weeks ago, leaving hundreds of appointments unfilled. Byrne said welcoming walk-ins might fill the void.

“If they decide spur of the moment that they’d like to come in or it’s difficult planning, they can come in to the clinic and we’ll take care of them,” she said.

The county is also scaling back the main clinic’s hours. Beginning next week, the clinic will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Staffing at the clinic will also be reduced. Byrne said the county plans to move some nurses to the mobile vaccination program. She says the county has enough medical staff and vaccine supply to begin offering daily mobile vaccination clinics.

“At this point, we have plenty of vaccine," Byrne said, "we just need more arms to get the vaccine in."

Deputy County Manager Tim Kaufman said county and state data show about 29% of Sedgwick County’s eligible population is considered fully vaccinated. The county estimates 385,000 residents are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Tuesday, the county health department has given about 194,000 vaccinations since the rollout began in late December. At least 86,712 people were considered fully vaccinated. The health department is just one of dozens of places dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine, so the county’s datadoes not represent a complete snapshot of the community.

Byrne said the final vaccination rate for Sedgwick County might be less than 50% of the eligible population.

“It is concerning because we know that we are not going to get anywhere we need to be to protect our community as far as that ‘herd community,’” she said.

“We know that our positivity rate is slowly starting to creep up, so we know COVID-19 is still in our community. We have variants in our community. So there is reason to be concerned on more than one level.”

Newly released demographic data shows Asian Americans have the highest rate of vaccinations in the county per 100,000 residents, followed by residents reporting two or more races, and white residents. 

Hispanic residents trail non-Hispanic groups in getting shots. Kaufman said the demographic data helps the county decide where to set up mobile vaccination clinics.

“We continue to do outreach work to try to address some of those things ... trying to make sure we get to all different demographics in the community,” he said.

Overall, more women than men have received shots. People 65 and older far outnumber other age groups in getting vaccinated.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.