Kansas makes COVID-19 booster shots available for all adults

Vaccine equity panel focuses on improving vaccination numbers for movable middle

By: - November 17, 2021 11:49 am

Gov. Laura Kelly is encouraging all Kansans over the age of 18 to receive an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of expected federal action. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — All fully vaccinated Kansans over the age of 18 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday.

The decision, made in tandem with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, comes as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer booster as early as Thursday. The drugmaker filed for FDA authorization last week.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is free, safe, effective, and the best way to keep our communities protected from this virus,” Kelly said. “Expanding access to booster shots will help us put an end to this deadly pandemic. Whether you are considering your first shot or signing up for a booster, I urge everyone to get the facts and get vaccinated.”

To receive the third dose, Kansans must be 18 years old and six months removed from the primary vaccinations for the Moderna or Pfizer shot or two months from their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those at elevated risk of exposure due to work or living conditions are encouraged to receive the booster as soon as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the Pfizer booster, as well as Moderna’s vaccine booster, for those 65 and older and adults who are immunocompromised or live in a high-risk setting. Anyone 18 and older who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is eligible for a second shot.

“As we move into the winter months, Kansans will increasingly be indoors, putting themselves at greater risk of contracting the virus,” said KDHE secretary Lee Norman. “Allowing Kansans to self-determine their risk of exposure to COVID-19 ensures that every tool is available to protect themselves and reduce the possibility of a winter COVID-19 surge.”

KDHE reported Wednesday 3,096 new cases, 20 new deaths and 82 new hospitalizations since Monday. The spike in metrics brings the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 452,909, 6,634 deaths and 15,388 hospitalizations. 

While the additional round of the vaccine is available to all, many are still hesitant to receive the initial doses. According to the CDC, 54% of Kansans are fully vaccinated, including 66.2% of adults.

Racial disparities in vaccination rates also remain prevalent in some groups. For example, Black Kansans are vaccinated with at least one dose at a rate of 42.8% compared to 50.4% among their white counterparts.

Latino, 56.4%, and American Indian, 76.2%, and Asian, 54.5% are all outpacing White Kansans, leading the state COVID-19 Equity Task Force to focus attention primarily on the African American community.

Ximena Garcia, special adviser to the governor for COVID-19 Vaccination Equity, turned to a vaccine sentiment survey conducted in September to look for a path to bridging the gap for Black Kansans.

“We found some defining characteristics or a profile of sorts of who is unvaccinated in Kansas,” Garcia said. “The people tend to be younger, tend to know somebody who has had COVID or have had COVID themselves, they tend to be rural or suburban, and to make less than $50,000 a year. We also know that of all the unvaccinated people that we talked to 66% said they were unlikely to get the vaccine.”

Garcia said the aim was to target the other 44% who may be more easily swayed.

Sarah Landry, of the University of Kansas Medical Center, pointed to structural barrier to registering for a vaccine appointment, like difficulty accessing the internet or lack of resources for those who may have impaired senses. However, she said many of the issues she sees now a more based in social, emotional and political principles.

As such, approaches taken previously that focus on mass marketing and appealing to a broad base of people may not be as effective as it was previously, Landry said.

“What folks are finding is that individual approaches to help convince people to get the vaccine from trusted sources are able to move that movable middle so to speak, like we talked about in the survey,” Landry said. “That obviously takes a lot of people power to do.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.