Phase 3 of Riley County’s vaccination priority schedule won’t occur this week.

The health department says it received word from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Friday that the statewide vaccination plan’s details cannot be adjusted to accommodate for each county’s needs. No county can move to Phase 3 until other Kansas counties are also ready to move up to Phase 3. KDHE informed the health department that doing so would have halted additional vaccine shipments from being delivered.

As a result, the county remains in Phase 2 and will administer only booster doses of the vaccine this week. State guidelines 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:

  • Grocery store workers and food services
  • Food processing, including meat processing plants
  • Large-scale aviation manufacturing plants
  • Workers in the following industries, if they regularly need to be in high-risk settings to perform their duties:
    • Retail, warehouses, and sales outlets
    • Agriculture
    • Supply of critical services or materials for the COVID response (e.g., personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • The U.S. Postal Service
    • Department of Motor Vehicles

Congregate settings include but are not limited to the following:

  • Congregate childcare institutions, adult and child protective services
  • Corrections facilities, including jails and juvenile justice facilities
  • Adult care homes, residents, and staff in home plus facilities not covered in Phase 1
  • Home caregivers (paid or unpaid), personal care aides

The health department says they will now be asking 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.

Because of the change, the health department 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 says it’s proud of the efficiency it’s had in distributing the vaccine 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.”


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