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Kansas says it will stop distributing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as federal health officials investigate reports of rare complications in six people who received the vaccine.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

With COVID-19 vaccines available to all Kansans age 16 or older, public health officials are battling a different pandemic problem: vaccine hesitancy.

Experts say the COVID-19 shots are as safe as any other routine vaccine, and they are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from the disease. They offer an end to the year-long pandemic, but only if enough people are inoculated to reach herd immunity.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service/File photo

A small but growing number of colleges are requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus, but Kansas universities so far say they won’t require the shot.

Matt Stamey/Wichita Journalism Collaborative

The Sedgwick County Health Department is offering more opportunities to get the COVID-19 vaccination in the next few weeks.

At 70, Linda Findley has long been active in her small town of Fort Scott, Kansas, which sits more than an hour away from any major city.

Findley, whose husband died in an accident just after the local hospital closed, helps with the Elks and fundraising, and — like many people in this part of the country — doesn’t think COVID-19 is that dangerous.

Stephan Bisaha / KMUW/File photo

For many middle- and high-school students in Wichita, Monday was the first day back on campus since the pandemic shutdown last year — and another step toward normal.

Some families that had opted for online learning last semester decided to send kids back into classrooms, now that COVID-19 numbers are down and vaccines more available. That meant more crowded hallways — and a distinct first-day-of-school feeling, especially at high schools.

LIBERAL, Kansas — One woman thinks the COVID-19 pandemic was planned, man-made.

A man won’t get inoculated because he suspects other countries are using Americans as test subjects for their vaccines.

Three-fourths of this focus group gathered at a Liberal community center had heard the shots might contain microchips so the government can track people, even if most said they don’t buy that myth anymore.

Matt Stamey/Wichita Journalism Collaborative

Beginning Monday, all Kansans 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday the state is ready to move into the fifth and final phase of its vaccine rollout, opening appointments up to the general public.

“With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly,” Kelly said in a statement. “I strongly encourage every Kansan to get the COVID-19 vaccine so we can get back to school, back to work, and back to normal.”

Kansas officials confirmed on Thursday that a 68-year-old Atchison County woman experienced anaphylaxis and died after she received a COVID-19 vaccination but said no link between the shot and her death had been determined.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said on Thursday it would investigate the case.

Carla Eckels / KMUW

A new partnership between the Wichita Black Nurses Association, Black churches and the Sedgwick County Health Department is working to get the COVID-19 vaccine to communities of color that have been hit particularly hard by the disease.

This week on The Range, we stop by a vaccination clinic at St. James Missionary Baptist Church to hear why increasing access to the vaccine is so vital.

Plus, don't throw those food scraps away — we talk to the owner of Nudge Compost about the greener alternative to clean your plate.