TOPEKA — Community health care providers across Kansas will soon receive $900,000 in state grant funds to help with local COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will dispense a 3-year grant of $450,000 to both the Kansas Association of Family Physicians and the Kansas Association of Pediatricians, for a total of $900,000 to be distributed to primary care providers. These funds will go toward hiring staff to serve as a liaison to KDHE and help with vaccine advocacy and administration.
The liaison officer would be tasked with encouraging primary care providers to get their patients vaccinated, hosting webinars to share best practices and provide a customer service role for providers looking to order vaccines.
“With more than 60% of Kansans over the age of 18 having received at least one dose of the vaccine, our state is steadily making progress,” Kelly said. “These grants are part of our state’s all-of-the-above approach to pursue every initiative and use every resource to get vaccines into arms and protect our families, our economy and our schools.”
Kelly announced the grants as she engaged in conversation with health care stakeholders from across the state about what challenges are holding back vaccination rates in their area or field. Attendees of the meeting in Topeka included a representative of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, the Community Care Network of Kansas, the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the leader of Kansas’ vaccine coordination.
Kelly said the roundtable discussion served as an opportunity to highlight how lawmakers could better serve health care providers in their efforts to fully vaccinate the public.
“Our state’s primary care providers are critical to providing broad, ongoing access to vaccines, and play essential roles as trusted advisers to vaccine-hesitant communities,” she said.
The discussion among providers centered largely around a frequently touted idea of finding trusted community figures to serve as vaccination advocates. Jen Bacani-McKenney, a family physician and president-elect of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said it was incumbent upon physicians to be more vocal about the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations.
She said too often primary care providers wait for the patient to come to them. It is best to be more active in pursuing a patient’s best health practices, Bacani-McKenney said.
“This is probably the year for us to say, ‘No. We’re going to call you and we will ask you to come in,’ ” she said. “I think we have to get creative with ways that we call people in, but we have to be very intentional and very active instead of just waiting.”
Unlike with other vaccines where there is not often a deep discussion about the efficacy and importance, the COVID-19 shot requires doctors to be prepared for a more rigorous conversation, said Allen Greiner, a physician and medical officer for the Wyandotte County Public Health Department.
Greiner also emphasized empathy and understanding toward those who have reasonable concerns about the vaccine.
“We have to respect people’s fears and concerns and tell them it’s OK, but also tell them that we have a virus on our hands now that’s extremely lethal,” Greiner said. “It’s that strong recommendation and just sort of saying this is what I believe you should do, this my medical recommendation, and get into the weeds if you need to.”
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