COVID-19 vaccinations continue in Finney County

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, speaks to the Finney County Commission on Nov. 2 during a meeting.

COVID-19 vaccination in Finney County is going well.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, said the vaccination process has gone great so far.

"We're projecting a total of 4,800 vaccines administered by the end of the day Feb. 26, with approximately 800 of those being second doses," she said.

Vaccinations this week were deferred to later in the week because last week's cold weather caused a shipping delay of the county's vaccine allotment of doses, Drees said. However, people were still able to receive the vaccine.

"Staff was able to reschedule residents' appointments from Monday for later this week," she said. "We're grateful for the support our community has and adjusting their plans and appointments due to that delay."

On Feb. 1, the health department launched a collaborative vaccination approach with community partners Genesis Family Health, St. Catherine Hospital and LiveWell Finney County. Drees said it allowed the health department to safely and quickly vaccinate residents as they've received additional doses.

While the collaborative approach began Feb. 1, they started giving out doses mid-January to health care personnel organizations as part of Phase 1 of the vaccination plan, Drees said.

There has been an outpouring of people enrolling for the vaccine, Drees said. But at the beginning the health department was unsure what the community response would be, how many people would want the vaccine at that time.

"The level of support we've received and high community interest in being vaccinated is incredibly encouraging as we continue to respond to the pandemic," she said.

The clinic is located at the Finney County Fairgrounds at the Exhibition Building, 409 Lake Avenue.

Vaccines are currently only given by appointment and clinic hours vary depending upon the supply received each week, Drees said.

"Walk-ins currently are not accepted in an effort for us to safely distribute vaccines with the appropriate social distancing and also to decrease wait times for individuals being vaccinated," she said.

Drees said there are six ways eligible individuals can make an appointment to be vaccinated, they are: through an online enrollment form; the Finney County Health Department email; or directly calling the health department, the mass vaccination clinic, Genesis Family Health or LiveWell Finney County.

The entities will often fill out the online enrollment form on behalf of the resident that calls. That being said, Drees said the health department has been having a difficult time responding to phone calls as the volume of calls has been high.

Additionally, the health department is using the phones to call some of the people who have received their first dose to get scheduled for their second dose if they are coming up on the due date for the second dose.

"We've tried to open up those other communication methods so that we can continue to meet that increasing demand as fast as we can," she said. "As you can imagine it's a lot to coordinate with the amount of phone calls that we're receiving."

Those eligible to receive the vaccine currently include:

• People aged 55-64 who are medically compromised (chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; down syndrome; heart conditions (cardiomyopathies); immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant; Type 2 diabetes; sickle cell disease; obesity when paired with hypertension or other chronic condition)

• Postal services workers including USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.

• Transportation workers including those who work at the airport, City Link and taxi

• City, county and state employees, including the DMV

• Licensed day cares, individuals must present their state license and identification

• People aged 65 and older

• Licensed clergy

• First responders including law enforcement, firefighters and corrections

• Those from Phase 1 not yet vaccinated (health care personnel; long-term care facility employees and residents)​

For more information on eligibility, or for an enrollment form to make an appointment, go to finneycounty.org/covidhub, email ficovaccine@gmail.com or call the Finney County Health Department at 620-272-3600.

November saw the highest COVID-19 numbers in Finney County, Drees said. The highest number of cases occurred right before Thanksgiving.

The positivity rate has decreased since then and can be contributed to several different factors, Drees said. They include the citywide face-covering ordinance, people practicing preventative actions such as social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing of frequently used items and limiting gatherings.

Drees said the decrease has been a relief for the health department.

"What this has helped us do is to continue to push our efforts and staffing to support the mass vaccination clinic instead of being tied up with all of the contact tracing and investigations," she said. "It helps us kind of move on and continue to promote this next phase in our role in combating COVID-19 in our community, it's really giving us that fighting chance to continue to support our community in that aspect."

People can continue to keep numbers low by continuing the preventative actions, including the Thee W's – watch your distance, wear a facemask in public spaces and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and regularly sanitize frequently used items.

Drees said the department anticipates an increase in vaccine supply and distribution to increase, so taking preventative actions is important to keep the community safe.

"Widespread vaccination will take time and we must remain diligent, we need all of our residents to play an active part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and give health care providers a fighting chance in vaccinating our population and helping those who require increased medical care," she said.