BY DION LEFLER | Wichita Journalism Collaborative
Kate Flavin, public information officer for Sedgwick County, demonstrates how residents can schedule a vaccination appointment online on the county’s website. Go to: https://www.sedgwickcounty.org/covid-19/vaccine/schedule/ BY SEDGWICK COUNTY/YOUTUBE
It’s called “vaccine surfing” — hanging out around a COVID-19 vaccination center at the end of the day, hoping to get a shot from the leftovers.
But it won’t work at Sedgwick County’s vaccination stations, a top county official said Tuesday.
While Sedgwick County is committed to not wasting any doses of the precious vaccine, its medical personnel won’t give the jab to just anybody to get rid of spare doses, said Tim Kaufman, deputy county manager.
If there are leftover doses at the end of the day, the county dispenses them mainly to public-safety workers, who are eligible for vaccination within state guidelines and who can be quickly called to the vaccination center, Kaufman said.
Each vial of vaccine contains six shots, so five or fewer doses is the maximum that could be available when the appointments end on any given day, Kaufman said.
There is no “standby list” for the general public, he said. “I want to make sure people don’t waste any time trying to call in for that purpose.”
Kaufman reported that so far, Sedgwick County has distributed a total of 24,219 shots — 16,924 first doses that confer 50%-70% immunity to the coronavirus, and 7,295 second doses that raise the immunity level to 90%-plus.
Kaufman said with daily highs in the teens, it’s not practical to have people waiting in line outside the main vaccination center at Intrust Bank Arena — especially the 75-and-older people who are making up most of the current vaccination population.
The shots were being given in the concourse of the Intrust, but the staff has now covered up the hockey ice floor, opening up a lot more space so people can wait inside, out of the elements, he said.
The bitter cold is also affecting a drive-through vaccination site at the Wichita Transit bus barn.
“We close the door so the wind’s not blowing, but it’s still 13-15 degrees,” Kaufman said.
The county is now staggering drive-through appointments so the employees giving the shots can work for an hour and then get an hour to go into the offices and warm up.
With the temperatures due to drop into single-digit highs later this week, they may have to temporarily shut down the site, Kaufman said.
However, County Manager Tom Stolz said closing the drive-through — which serves frail elderly people who can’t stand in line at the arena — would be a last resort and could even touch off a staff revolt among the employees who are giving the shots in the freezing cold.
“For us to shut down the drive-through, I don’t think was an option for them, because they know this need is out there,” Stolz said. “We’ll do the best we can to keep them safe and to alternate, but I think the staff sees the need that this population wants and needs this vaccine.”
The Wichita Journalism Collaborative is partnership of six local news outlets with funding from the Solutions Journalism Network and the Wichita Community Foundation. Dion Lefler is a reporter for the Wichita Eagle, a member of the collaborative.