The City-Cowley County Health Department will be moving to expand COVID-19 vaccination efforts beginning next week. Earlier this week the Governor and State Health Department announced that expanded categories of people would be eligible to receive vaccine as the Phase 3 and Phase 4 qualifiers would be used to determine eligibility.

Beginning next week people aged 16 through 64 with underlying conditions that increase their risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are encouraged to schedule appointments and be vaccinated. The Health Department is planning on adding additional Saturday hours during which ONLY COVID-19 vaccinations will be administered. The Saturday clinics will be scheduled in communities throughout the county on a revolving basis. The community clinics will be held at locations that will be announced such as schools, churches, or community buildings. These clinics will require pre-registration through the Health Department. The Health Department will also be reserving Fridays at the Health Department offices in both Arkansas City and Winfield for COVID-19 vaccinations only. They will also continue to schedule vaccinations for people during regular daily office hours as schedule time allows. The goal of the Health Department is to vaccinate up to 1,000 people each week.

The Health Department is currently reaching out to all remaining individuals that had called and sadly had to wait to get them promptly scheduled. That number is approximately 1500 people down from a high point of nearly 3500 just 8 weeks ago. Other vaccine providers in the county will likely also be welcoming more individuals for vaccination as the restrictions lessen and the vaccine supply continues to expand.

The Public Health Officer also reports that by the end of the current week (March 20, 2021) vaccination work within the county will have provided at least one vaccination to as many as 9,500 individuals. The goal for the county is to have as many as 21,000 people vaccinated by July, so that events this summer and fall like music festivals, fairs, and city-wide celebrations can occur unfettered. It also will be vital that our population has acquired widespread immunity for school to normally resume for the 2021-22 school year.

Currently in the Cowley County community, all three (3) types of currently approved vaccine is available; Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). Of the three types Pfizer and Moderna are listed as the most effective providing 94%-96% efficacy and Janssen claims 66%-70% efficacy. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require 2 doses spread three to four weeks apart for complete protection. Jansenn is a single dose vaccine. The Public Health Officer urges every adult age 40 and over to request the 2 dose vaccines due to their greater levels of effectiveness. Younger individuals who are otherwise healthy would be good candidates for the single dose vaccine. But in any event, your being vaccinated is strongly urged. Check with the provider of your choice to see which brand they have.

To date no one in Cowley County has suffered any severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccines administered through the Health Department. People have had symptomatic reactions to the vaccine based upon their personal health status. Some people have had stronger reactions to initial doses due to prior COVID-19 infection. Because of this people who have been ill are advised to wait for 30 days after their illness before being vaccinated. If you are unsure about whether you should be vaccinated, you are advised to check with your personal physician or health care provider.

Everyone wants the pandemic to end. Now we all have the means to take the next step to make that happen. People should understand some simple truths about the vaccines:
• They are safe.
• They are effective.
• They will help prevent you from contracting COVID-19.

Arguments against the being vaccinated pale in comparison to the fact that over 3800 people have been ill and 105 people in our county have died from COVID related illness during the past year. We have endured a full year of work, school, and general life interruptions. We all hope to soon be rid of the need to wear masks as we want to see smiling faces again and we need to again embrace our senior family members who have been sheltered away and isolated which has caused everyone emotional and physical distress.

Please, as the vaccines becomes more and more available, schedule your vaccination. The shot will not cause you harm. Please don’t wait for others to go first. Step up and do your part now. Help us help you and stop COVID for good.