Johnson County making changes after seniors wait in the cold for COVID-19 vaccine


SHAWNEE, Kan. (KSNT) – Those 80 and older who showed up for vaccine appointments Tuesday in Johnson County were surprised that many were literally left out in the cold.

The line to get in to Okun Fieldhouse wrapped around the sidewalk and stretched to the back of the large parking lot as the county began its Phase 2 vaccination distribution.

“I was alarmed, would be a very good word,” said Shelly Little, who dropped her parents off for their vaccine appointments.

As they waited, Little went home to grab a coat for her father who wore just a sweater, never imagining he would be waiting outside in below-freezing temperatures with others.

“Walkers, canes, elderly couples, and I just got more and more distressed as I saw them having to potentially go stand in a line for I didn’t know how long,” Little said.

It ended up being over a half hour for Little’s parents to get inside where they waited for about 30 more minutes.

“I don’t want to be come off as ungrateful because I am sincerely and deeply grateful that they were able to receive the vaccine, but I mean, I am worried about vaccine two,” Little said.

Johnson County Health Services Division Director Nancy Tausz apologized for the long wait outside.

“I’m very sorry that that is happening,” she said.

She understood people’s frustration and said the health department is making changes to avoid the same thing happening again.

“I think we might open up the gym a little bit more than we had today,” Tausz said. “We were trying to watch the length of the gym that they would have to walk, but I think it would be better to do that and lessen the people who are outside because we are trying to get them in as fast as we can.”

While it was no fun waiting in the cold, the frustration melted away for most people after receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and hope for the future.

“I feel as if I won a prize. I’m so excited,” said Bonny Cooper, who’s most looking forward to hugging her grandchildren.

Jackie Wing, who also got her first vaccination Tuesday, said the isolation COVID-19 has caused has been rough.

“I haven’t seen my family. I haven’t seen my friends. I haven’t gone to a restaurant. I haven’t gone to church. I haven’t done anything for almost a year, and I’m happy now,” she said.

The Johnson County Health Department will go through 7,500 vaccines doses this week, which means more than 1,000 people a day are going to be vaccinated at Okun Fieldhouse. On Tuesday alone, the department vaccinated 1,778 people.

With more cold weather in the forecast, it might be a great idea to wear your warm winter clothes just in case.

And with bad weather expected Wednesday, Johnson County Health Department Director Dr. Sanmi Areola said they’re trying to get people vaccinated as fast as they can, but don’t want to put people in unsafe situations.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving to your appointment Wednesday, just call the health department, and they will reschedule as soon as they can.

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