Beginning Monday, all Kansans 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday the state is ready to move into the fifth and final phase of its vaccine rollout, opening appointments up to the general public.
“With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly,” Kelly said in a statement. “I strongly encourage every Kansan to get the COVID-19 vaccine so we can get back to school, back to work, and back to normal.”
The move to Phase 5 comes a week after Kansas shifted to Phases 3 and 4 of the vaccine plan. Those phases included residents 16 and older with certain medical conditions, and workers in high-contact industries.
State health officials said as of Friday, 25.9% of Kansans had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Earlier this week, Sedgwick County discussed opening vaccinations to the general public because it had so many appointment slots available. County officials said there are 50 places in the Wichita area where eligible residents can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Sedgwick County’s online appointment portal is now open to all residents 16 and older. You also can scheduled an appointment by calling (316) 660-1029. The county is operating its main vaccine clinic at the former central library downtown and a drive-through clinic at the Wichita Transit Center on south Waterman; a second mass vaccination site at the K-State Extension Center closes on Saturday.
The county is able to schedule about 4,000 appointments each week.
“I can’t stress enough that we really need we really need any citizens that have not been vaccinated to please get vaccinated,” said County Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner. “I know some people hesitate to even get a flu shot, but this is a pretty serious virus still.”
The state’s vaccine rollout began in December but moved slowly because of the limited supply available to states from the federal government. But supplies have increased, and Kelly said state officials decided to open up eligibility so the vaccine won’t be wasted.
The governor’s office said Kansas will become the eighth state to make the vaccine available to all adults, joining Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia.
“A lot people were saying it’s going to be July, well, we’re here at the end of March,” Meitzner said, “and we’re now really close to getting this thing conquered.”
Two days after commissioners voted to end the current public health order, which included a mask mandate and social distancing requirements, Sedgwick County clarified that the county now falls under the statewide mask order signed in November.
The order applies to counties without their own mandates.
“The action taken by the Board of County Commissioners yesterday to revoke the local health order means the Governor’s executive order (No. 20-68) is in effect," the county said in a statement.
Sedgwick, Reno and Harvey counties all ended their health orders in recent days in response to a new state law Kelly signed this week that could open local governments up to lawsuits over health restrictions.
That law, SB 40, means the executive order will expire on March 31. But Kelly says she’ll sign a new mask order on April 1, a move conservative leaders in the state Legislature have already said they’ll challenge.
"Should the governor issue any new executive order which imposes an undue burden on the people of Kansas, including an unnecessary new mask mandate, rest assured the Senate will take immediate action once we receive the order,” Senate President Ty Masterson said in a statement.