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Kansas City Is Targeting Its Highest Mortality Zip Codes For Coronavirus Shots

Teela Maxwell, program director of the Linwood YMCA
Frank Morris
Teela Maxwell, program director of the Linwood YMCA has been calling older YMCA members in targeted Zip Codes to help them sign up for vaccinations

Kansas City, Walmart and community groups are working together to provide thousands of COVID-19 vaccinations to the citizens who are most likely to get sick and least likely to have access to care.

Kansas City government is partnering with community groups and Walmart to concentrate on six zip codes with the highest mortality rates in hopes of getting coronavirus vaccines to those who need it most.

All of those zipcodes are east of Troost Avenue, largely between 12th Street and Gregory Boulevard, said John Stamm, Mayor Quinton Lucas’ chief of staff.

“The communities that are hardest affected by COVID also have had the least access to vaccines. So we’re doing everything we can to correct that,” Stamm said.

The chance to address the inequity sprang up about two weeks ago when Walmart notified the city that it had vaccine from the federal government to distribute and was looking for a place to do it, Stamm said.

The company is already vaccinating at some 1,400 stores and more than 40 pop-up locations around the country, said Billy Smith, a regional pharmacy clinical services manager for Walmart. Smith said he’s glad to see one in Kansas City’s urban core.

“Being a resident of Kansas City myself, I take this personally,” he said.

The Pfizer vaccine doses, likely enough to inoculate more than 3,000 people twice, are coming free of cost directly from the federal government, Smith said.

The city wants the clinic location kept secret to keep people without an appointment from trying to walk in. Linwood YMCA program manager Teela Maxwell said the organization is reaching out to older members, in the targeted zip codes, to help them set up vaccination appointments.

“We put a mass email out, we started individual calling members,” Maxwell said. “We have a rolling calling list that we do all the time anyway.

"So, if we had talked to them before and had a note that they hadn’t come back because of COVID, we were calling them first, and say, 'Hey, we have a shot available, a clinic coming up available, would you like to get your shot?'" she said.

Maxwell said she'd like to to see her YMCA fill up with exercisers again and hopes the zip-code targeted shots will speed that process.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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