All adults in Kansas to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting March 29

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Gov. Laura Kelly, shown here touring a mass vaccination site in Topeka, is opening vaccine access to all Kansans ages 16 and older beginning March 29.

All adults age 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting March 29, Gov. Laura Kelly's office announced Friday, marking the final phase of Kansas' vaccination plan. 

The move marks the second major expansion of eligibility in recent days, with individuals with underlying health conditions, as well as some essential workers, being able to get their shots starting last Monday.

Alaska was the first state to open the floodgates to all adults earlier this week, with six other states following suit in the recent days. The moves come as states rush to meet President Joe Biden's goal of opening up eligibility to all adults in the U.S. by May 1.

“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.”

Counties across the state quickly said they would follow suit, aligning with the state's plan. Sedgwick County, the state's second-largest county, said they would allow those 16 and older to get shots in the days to come.

"A lot of people were saying July, but it's the end of March and we are now really close to getting this thing conquered," said Pete Meitzner, chairman of the Sedgwick County Commission.

More:Roughly 600,000 Kansans set to qualify for COVID-19 vaccine in major eligibility expansion

Republicans in the state Legislature have been critical of Kelly's handling of the vaccine rollout but welcomed the move on Friday.

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, R-Galena, chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said he wasn't worried that counties would be overwhelmed with demand.

"I think it is a great step forward, I applaud the governor for making the step," Hilderbrand said. "I just wish we had been at this point a little sooner."

As recently as last week, when Kelly announced the state would move into Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the vaccination plan, the governor said she was "pretty comfortable" the state could meet Biden's May 1 target but didn't lay out a firm timetable for meeting the goal.

In a news release, the governor's office said that, despite the move to increase eligibility this week, many counties were still struggling to find enough demand, which helped officials feel comfortable in allowing all adults to access the shots.

The state has seen an uptick in vaccine shipments in recent weeks but was dealt a blow earlier this week when national production shortages meant the state would get only 16,500 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That was a significant drop from the estimated shipment of 100,000 doses that was originally expected.

More:Kansas was set to get a major boost in vaccine doses. KDHE says that is now on hold.

Over 1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state, with 25.9% of the state's population already vaccinated, according to data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment released Friday.

Kansas ranks 37th in the country for vaccine doses administered per capita, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Individuals looking to find a vaccination site near them can go to vaccinefinder.org/ and use the CDC's Vaccine Finder tool.

KDHE reported an increase of 506 cases since Wednesday, as well as a rise of 10 deaths and 32 new hospitalizations.