Kansas governor gets COVID-19 vaccine; more state employees to get vaccine priority
Gov. Laura Kelly received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at the Nickell Armory in Topeka.
"Didn't feel a thing," she said after getting the shot. "No pain but a lot of gain."
She received the dose as part of a public effort to encourage Kansans to take the vaccine when it becomes available to them.
Right now, Kansas will get two more shipments of 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the next two weeks. Kansas should also get next week the second dose of the initial 24,000 Pfizer vaccines received early this month.
With the Moderna vaccine, 17,000 doses is expected to come next week.
In total, Kansas should be getting around 185,550 COVID-19 vaccine doses after everything thus far, with 24,000 of them being second doses, said Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman.
In addition to Kelly, Kansas legislative, executive and judicial leaders would be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine early as part of a "continuity of operations" plan, according to previous reporting. That plan would be rolling out in the next couple of weeks.
The Kansas Senate president, vice president, House speaker, speaker pro tem and statewide elected officials, including the attorney general and secretary of state, are part of that plan. The chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court also would be eligible, Kelly's office said.
It was revealed Wednesday, however, that Norman himself would also receive the vaccine as part of that continuity plan on Thursday. Every state agency has a continuity of operations plan, Kelly said, that defines who in each agency will get vaccinated. That could number to the "hundreds," she said.
But the governor's idea of putting some government officials first has received some criticism, and whether those officials will actually opt to receive the vaccine remains to be seen.
Incoming Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said in a statement that he wouldn't be getting the vaccine early.
"We should not be giving politicians access to scarce vaccine doses until vulnerable Kansans have been protected," he said. "It is inappropriate to prioritize politicians and prisoners over our most vulnerable."
Attorney General Derek Schmidt does plan to get vaccinated, his spokesperson said, but "has decided to wait his turn with other healthy 52-year-olds."
The governor defended her plan.
"I don't see this as putting politicians ahead of our vulnerable population. I see this as putting our essential state leaders, who need to be there for continuity of operations; we're putting them in line so we can ensure state government can continue to function," Kelly said.
In fact, Kelly urged those state officials not wanting to get the vaccine early to do so.
"That's what I think leadership is, setting an example," she said. "It would be wise and be consistent with the desire to work together to really promote the mitigation efforts that work and ... something that would actually stop the spread of the virus. I think they ought to step up, but obviously that's an individual choice."
In other matters, Norman said the more contagious variant of the coronavirus found in the United Kingdom and recently in Colorado hasn't yet been detected in Kansas, but the state is on the watch.