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Kansas City Hospitals Preparing to Start COVID-19 Vaccinations Next Week, Post-Thanksgiving Spike Hits

Frank Augstein/AP
A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in Great Britain as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program on Tuesday. The University of Kansas Health System could begin administering the same vaccine to its frontline workers next week.

Even as officials in Kansas and Missouri announce the arrival of vaccines next week, COVID-19 cases are spiking again, thanks to get-togethers during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services plans to begin vaccinating people against COVID-19 next Thursday, pending emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine that’s expected this weekend.

Missouri is set to receive more than 51,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine within 24 hours of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting it authorization, according to the department’s director Dr. Randall Williams.

He also said the state has received a commitment to get 350,000 doses in the month of December.

Under the state's vaccination plan, frontline workers and those in long-term care facilities will get priority.

“While people in long-term care facilities make up 4% of the cases, they make up 43% of the mortality so to be able to minimize the morbidity and mortality would be tremendous for our hospital since the average stay for somebody in the ICU can be 10 days to three weeks,” Williams said.

Williams said he expects Missouri will receive another 105,000 doses of a vaccine from Moderna next week if it is also granted emergency use authorization.

The first 70,000 doses are slated to be administered to nursing home residents and workers by Walgreens and CVS pharmacies under government contracts because the Moderna vaccine doesn't require the negative 70 degrees Celsius temperature that the Pfizer vaccine does, Williams said.

The Pfizer vaccine will be focused for healthcare workers and hospitals that have the storage to house the vaccine at temperature.

The University of Kansas Health System, one of the approved hospitals for the Pfizer vaccine, expects to receive its shipment of the vaccine between Monday and Wednesday next week.

Dr. Tim Williamson, KU’s vice president of Quality and Safety, says the quick rollout of the vaccine is a game changer for the pandemic.

“This is historic and in a good way. We've used the word unprecedented in a bad way so often but, I think for one of the first times, we can say unprecedented in a good way, said Williamson.

The announcement on vaccine rollout comes as case numbers began rising again at the hospital. At the KU daily briefing Friday, officials said they were back up to 101 patients with active COVID-19 cases, 45 of which are in the Intensive Care Unit and 27 are on ventilators.

Missouri also reported Friday that 92 people died of the coronavirus in the last seven days, an uptick from the last week. In all, 4,481 Missouri residents have died of COVID-19, according to the state's dashboard. In Kansas, there have been a total 2,072 deaths, according to a state website.

KU Hospital will not be requiring its staff to get the vaccine, and neither will the state, according to Missouri’s health department.

“These groups are not mandating things like that until it's fully FDA approved and not just through the emergency use authorization. That's something that could potentially come way down the road, but not anytime soon, and it's not going to be government based,” said Lisa Cox, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Williams said General Gustave Perna, the head of the federal Operation Warp Speed, has also promised that Missouri will receive 2 million vaccines by the end of February.

This amount of vaccines could allow the state to move into the next phase of its plans as early as the first week of January, said Williams. The plan calls for vaccinations for “people who play a key role in keeping the essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace and people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.”

Williams said people that think they are eligible for the vaccine will be able to reach out to their provider.

“You'll just go in and identify yourself as a doctor, a dentist, a childcare teacher, and they'll give you the vaccine, but there won't be this list that you'll check off on. So it's an honor system once we get into (that phase),” Williams said.

The vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public until May or June 2021, Williams said, so it's important that people continue to wear masks and socially-distance until herd-immunity is established with at least 70% of the population vaccinated.

Once the vaccine is available, Williamson said recipients will not have to buy it since the federal government already purchased it, but they may need to pay a fee for its administration.

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