National News Desk

County apologizes for seniors having to wait outside in cold for COVID-19 vaccine



(KANSAS CITY) — County officials in Kansas apologized after seniors had to wait for hours in freezing temperatures to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The county expanded vaccine eligibility to residents ages 80 and above this week. Many of those waiting in line outside the Johnson County Health Department-run vaccine clinic in Shawnee on Tuesday could be seen requiring assistance or the use of a walker.

“I thought maybe we could have [been] facilitated better inside with seating,” Kristy Coonfield, who waited for an appointment Tuesday, told ABC Kansas City affiliate KMBC. “They did try to accommodate as well as they could.”

County officials quickly apologized for the inconvenience.

“We are pleased to see the enthusiasm and interest in vaccines, but I first want to start by apologizing for the logistics in how it was implemented today,” County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said Tuesday during a media briefing. “It was not what our county expects or deserves, and it will be different tomorrow and going forward.”

To address the issues, additional staff and “better traffic control” were planned for Wednesday, Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, said during the briefing. The department was also working to ensure that people could wait in their car until their appointment.

“You have a right to expect good customer service from us, you have the right to expect comfort while we are providing the vaccines to you,” Areola said.

On Wednesday, the experience was the “opposite,” officials said.

“We had more staff onsite to assist people, used warming buses, tents and shuttles from the parking lot,” Lori Sand, a spokesperson for the county manager’s office, told ABC News. “Feedback has been very complimentary and appreciative.”

The clinic also opened a half-hour early to accommodate those who showed up over an hour before their appointment, she said.

The vaccination site — located in a sports complex — administered 1,778 vaccines on Tuesday and 1,600 on Wednesday. The county has fully booked its 7,584 available slots this week, which are available to those ages 80 and up as well as people from Phase 1 who are receiving their first or second dose of vaccine.

Areola urged residents who do not have an appointment to stay home, after “quite a few” people without one showed up on Tuesday.

“We are asking that you exercise patience with us,” he said. “Don’t show up without an appointment so that our plans and processes are minimally disrupted.”

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