SMITH CENTER, Kan. – Governor Laura Kelly announced last week that Kansas would be moving to Phase 3 and 4 of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan simultaneously on Monday, Mar. 22. As a result, Smith County began adding more individuals to the vaccine request list at scmhks.org/vaccinerequest.
“We’re hopeful that we can add a lot of new names to our vaccine request list now that the state has moved into the next phases of the vaccination plan,” said Allen Van Driel, CEO of the hospital. “Our goal is to vaccinate at least 60 percent of the county population to reach herd immunity.”
Van Driel, the hospital’s medical staff and the local health department are concerned with herd immunity to keep the virus numbers from surging again this spring.
“Just like we encouraged social distancing, limiting gatherings and wearing masks at the height of our COVID-19 outbreak this fall, we are encouraging everyone to sign up for the vaccine,” said Dr. Ferrill Conant, a physician at the hospital and the county’s health officer. “Whether you believe you will get sick or not, this is an opportunity to do something to protect your family and friends that may be vulnerable.”
The team at SCMH and the local health department have seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks, but they are not letting their guard down just yet.
“While the virus seems to be at bay, for now, we will expect an increase in cases if we cannot get as much of the population vaccinated as we need,” said Laura Hageman, director of the county’s health department. “We’re pleased that the numbers have decreased, and we’re continuing to offer vaccines as our best prevention method.”
Phases 3 and 4 of the state’s plan allow for anyone age 16 and above with one or more conditions that increase the risk for severe illness to be vaccinated. Risk factors include cancer, certain heart conditions, diabetes, pregnancy, asthma, liver disease, dementia, etc.
The plan also allows for any non-healthcare workers in critical infrastructure who cannot work remotely to be vaccinated.
“Between these two phases, we can and should cover a substantial percentage of the Smith County population,” Conant said. “It is vital that we keep those in our county working, going to school and participating in activities. Vaccination is an opportunity to remove as much risk as possible for severe illness and spread of the virus.”
Conant notes that it can take several months to recover fully from the secondary effects of COVID-19.
“We’ve seen people with new or exacerbated heart and lung conditions,” Conant said. “There is a vaccine that is 95 percent effective at preventing the illness. As people are weighing the pros and cons of the vaccine, we hope they see the long-term benefits outweigh any horror stories they’ve heard from family and friends.”
Conant and the other providers have talked about the benefits and side effects of the vaccine on the hospital’s Facebook page.
“We’ve seen side effects such as sore muscles, low-grade fever, fatigue and redness around the injection area,” Conant said. “Most of these are treatable with Tylenol or ibuprofen, last 24-48 hours and none of the side effects are as bad as getting COVID-19 or the secondary issues that develop from it.”
Conant and his team cannot stress enough the vaccine’s importance for as many people who can get it.
“This vaccine is the single best option we have to keep the virus from spreading and limiting activities in the future,” Conant said. “Let’s all do our part.”
Sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine through the county-wide online request form at scmhks.org/vaccinerequest. To learn more about the vaccines available or the state’s vaccination plan, visit scmhks.org/vaccine.