Gov. Kelly welcomes Biden administration’s urgency on vaccines

    Gov. Laura Kelly said the Kansas Department of Labor paid out an estimated $290 million in fraudulent unemployment claims in the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, including $140 million from the state's trust fund and $150 million in temporary federal assistance. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
    Gov. Laura Kelly said the Kansas Department of Labor paid out an estimated $290 million in fraudulent unemployment claims in the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, including $140 million from the state's trust fund and $150 million in temporary federal assistance. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly lauded Thursday the urgency placed on expansion of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing by the new administration of President Joe Biden.

    Biden set a target of vaccinating 100 million people in the United States during the first 100 days in office, but the president’s objective will be largely constrained by supply. The president signed a series of executive orders designed to implement a broad federal strategy for dealing with the pandemic.

    “I think we have needed this for a long time,” Kelly said during a news conference at the Capitol. “A response to this kind of emergency really does need to be driven from the federal government down to the state governments and then our work with the local governments. I’m thrilled.”

    Kansas has received 202,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine and records show 129,000 vaccinations have taken place in the state. At least 263,000 Kansans have contracted the virus since March, with ages ranging from 0 to 108. So far, 3,575 Kansans with COVID-19 have died.

    Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the state’s central challenge on the vaccination front was insufficiency of supply. He also clarified that Kansans can seek a vaccination outside of their home county.

    “We just do not have enough,” Norman said. “It’s really important to dispel the notion that we’re sequestering away, or warehousing and keeping at a state level, vaccine. We are not. We are pushing out vaccine.”

    Meanwhile, the governor said she had hired Marci Nielsen to serve in the governor’s office as chief advisor for COVID-19 with an emphasis on streamlining vaccinations for the coronavirus. She is to work with federal, state and local partners to make vaccine distribution practices in Kansas are second to none, Kelly said. Last year, the governor appointed Nielsen to an advisory role to upgrade coronavirus testing.