Kansas governor: ‘We’re trying everything we can’ to get people vaccinated from COVID-19

KDHE reports 21 more deaths, 1,539 cases since Wednesday

By: - July 23, 2021 3:08 pm
Gov. Laura Kelly said she hoped former Gov. Jeff Colyer had a swift recovery from a bout with cancer than prompted him to drop out of the 2022 governor's race. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Gov. Laura Kelly said she hoped former Gov. Jeff Colyer had a swift recovery from a bout with cancer than prompted him to drop out of the 2022 governor’s race. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday reaffirmed the state’s commitment to convincing the unvaccinated half of the state’s population to get a life-saving shot.

Only 51.4% of eligible Kansans — those ages 12 and above — are fully vaccinated from COVID-19, despite the widespread availability of three safe and effective vaccines and the emergence of a highly contagious strain of the disease. Vaccination rates have been stagnant for weeks.

Kelly said she is concerned about the Delta variant, and that state officials are doing everything they can to get people vaccinated.

“We keep trying. We’re trying everything we can,” the governor said. “You know, some things work, some things have not worked. We’re going to keep just throwing stuff out there and seeing if we can make it happen. No state has figured out the silver bullet. We’re all struggling with this. But I don’t think any of us are going to give up. We’re going to keep trying.”

The administration’s efforts include the work of a vaccine equity taskforce, raffles and other incentives at various events, $900,000 in grants to support vaccinations by health care providers, a door-to-door pilot program in Shawnee County, a Spanish language campaign, and public service announcements.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Friday reported another 21 Kansans had died from COVID-19 since Wednesday. The updated data also showed 66 new hospitalizations and 1,539 confirmed new cases of the virus.

Kansas case numbers have trended upward throughout July with the rapid spread of the Delta variant. KDHE has reported 83 new deaths so far this month, compared to 38 during the same period a year ago.

In total, the pandemic is responsible for 5,239 deaths, more than 11,000 hospitalizations and more than 327,000 infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 54.7% of Kansans 18 and older are fully vaccinated, including 80% of those 65 and older.

Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said in a news briefing Friday that medical professionals were ready to recommend new mask mandates because the Delta variant is much more infectious than the original strain of COVID-19, and not enough people are vaccinated. Those who are vaccinated are still protected but could transmit the virus to others.

"The Delta virus is a game-changer. We have to respond to that," Stites said. "Otherwise, what happens is unvaccinated people are at risk. And maybe people can be frustrated with someone who's decided not to get vaccinated, but frustration is not the answer here. The answer here is we have to take care of each other."

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.