Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Director Dan Partridge on Jan. 15 answered these questions about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Douglas County, as the county continues to vaccinate health care workers in Phase 1 under the state's vaccination plan.
Q: What phase are we in right now in Douglas County?
Dan: Right now, we are still in Phase 1 under the state’s plan it has put together and that we are following. So, in Phase 1, we are vaccinating health care workers, workers critical to continuity of our pandemic response and residents or patients in long-term care, senior housing or long-term care supported independent living. When we complete that hopefully by the end of this month and reach Phase 2, we will begin vaccinating Persons Aged 65+, those living and working in congregate settings and high-contact critical workers.
I did want to address some confusion between the numbers and names of the phases. Initially the phases were listed as 1A, 1B and so forth, but the state has since changed to numbers only: Phases 1 to 5. I know some people 65 and older in our community were concerned that now being in Phase 2 pushed them down the line, but that’s not the case. We just reconfigured what we are calling the different phases under the state’s plan.
Q: How is Phase 1 vaccination going right now?
Dan: Since December when the different partners under Unified Command – LMH Health, Heartland Community Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and Haskell Indian Health Center ‑ started receiving doses to vaccinate health care workers, we have felt we have done a good job getting what we have quickly into people’s arms. Obviously, the issue early on has been limited supply.
After receiving shipments this week, we are finally feeling like the vaccine supplies have thickened. Douglas County received 2,000 Moderna doses that we transferred to LMH Health – one top of 500 LMH Health also received ‑ to continue vaccinating health care workers who haven’t received their first dose yet. Heartland Community Health Center received 1,000 doses and LDCPH also received 300 doses, which will be second doses of Moderna for the health care workers and EMS first responders who received their first doses in late December. We will see these vaccinations starting early next week.
Right now, we are feeling pretty good that the state will send additional doses next week to cover more health care workers. and our hope is that we will be able to get done with Phase 1 in time for early February.
Q: If you are 65 or older or might qualify for Phase 2, do they need to do anything to sign up right now?
Dan Partridge: The short answer is no. You don’t need to do anything to sign up right now if you are in Phase 2. Our hope and expectations right now are that we would be able to move to Phase 2 in early February to vaccinate people 65 and older, those in congregate settings and those high-contact critical workers. That is dependent on our vaccine supply from the state. Our software system will prevent us from over-scheduling appointments, so the system bases the slots available based on our vaccine inventory, which we won’t know until we receive doses for Phase 2 from the state.
To give people an idea of where we are in the planning stages, for Phase 2, we are looking at conducting a mass vaccination site at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, and we have a registration software ready to deploy. When we get closer to Phase 2, we will communicate how people can register, and the software will help verify that people are eligible and then give them a code to make an appointment.
We’re waiting to deploy this process when it makes sense and when we have the vaccine to administer those doses. I think there has been some anxiety as folks have seen in other counties around us who are using the same software who are asking people to submit their names for Phase 2 right now. In talking with some of those counties, essentially all that’s happening there is they are taking your name. You’re not getting on a list or in line to receive the vaccine.
We’re not behind. We’re just waiting for the dates to firm up as we get closer to Phase 2. As we have communicated in the past week, we have set up alerts for people to sign up to receive communications via email, text and phone when phases change and when there would be new information for people to act on to receive the vaccine. The best thing right now to register for the alerts at dgcoks.org/emalerts. It is the same information, so you only need to register for one, and just a reminder these alerts are not a way to get in line for the vaccine.
Q: Is there anything else important about vaccinations or as we get closer to Phase 2?
Dan: It is exciting to get more people vaccinated, but COVID-19 is still in our community. And we ask people to continue to mask up and practice social distancing, even if you have received the vaccine. Our active case count this week is more than 1,200, which means 1% of our county population currently has COVID-19. We believe Douglas County has done a good job overall throughout the pandemic, but it’s more important especially now to continue to practice those smart and safe habits to reduce the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable in our community.
The vaccination process is the path to get us back to normal, and we ask the community for patience right now as we all continue to work together to vaccinate people as it becomes their turn in these phases.