(RILEY COUNTY, KS - March 1) Riley County Health Department has learned that we will not be able to move to Phase 3 of the vaccination priority schedule this week as originally planned. Instead, the county will remain in Phase 2 and administer only booster doses of the vaccine this week.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) informed the Riley County Health Department in an email on Friday that the statewide vaccination plan's details cannot be adjusted to accommodate each county's needs as initially stated. Furthermore, no county can move to Phase 3 until other Kansas counties are also ready to move to Phase 3. KDHE informed RCHD that moving to Phase 3 before other counties would result in vaccine shipments being halted. Riley County will instead remain in Phase 2 and continue to vaccinate people according to state guidelines, which prioritize high-contact critical workers before people with severe health conditions.
"From the beginning, Riley County Health Department prioritized two groups – those without whom the community truly cannot function, such as firefighters and water treatment plant operators, and those most at risk of serious illness and death," said Local Health Officer Julie Gibbs. "We vaccinated health care workers and first responders and the elderly with serious health conditions first, followed by others over 65, as those are the population that makes up the overwhelming majority of deaths in this pandemic."
Phase 2 includes the following individuals:
High-contact critical workers:
Congregate settings include but are not limited to the following:
Beginning immediately when registering for a vaccine in Riley County, we will ask each person to notate if they are an essential worker, per the state's definition. Those who already registered do not need to register again. Riley County will notify essential workers based on age.
As a result of this change, the Health Department has had to withdraw its offer to share 400 doses with Pottawatomie County to vaccinate their 65 and older population.
"We feel strongly that it is right to vaccinate those at greatest risk of serious illness or death ahead of people whose jobs can be conducted remotely, or where there are multiple sources for the same service. It has been our understanding all along that under Kansas' Home Rule doctrine, counties had the latitude to apply KDHE's guidance as it best fits our individual county's situation. However, we will follow KDHE's directive and reprioritize the order in which we are vaccinating residents of Riley County", said Riley County Health Department Director Julie Gibbs.
The Riley County Health Department is proud of how efficient it has been and the number of individuals we have vaccinated thus far.
"We operated in good faith that each county was given the authority to distribute vaccine doses according to the needs of their county," said Local Health Officer Julie Gibbs. "We are prepared to make changes and will follow any guidelines needed in order to continue getting shots into arms."
For more information about Riley County's response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, visit www.rileycountyks.gov/coronavirus and follow RCHD on Facebook at /Rileycountyhealthdepartment/