Mar. 20—Riley County Health Department officials are using new software for people to schedule their own vaccine appointment, as the county moves into the next phases of inoculating the public against COVID-19.
Riley County spokeswoman Alice Massimi said as of Friday, the county is using this new program so people can choose an appointment time (with slots every half hour), rather than being given a time as they had been under the old system.
The county will send residents a link and instructions on how to schedule their own appointment once they are notified of their eligibility for a vaccine.
"Instead of telling people what hour they're assigned to, they can go into this new site and choose the time they want," Massimi said.
Massimi said the health department will begin to move into phases 3 and 4 of vaccinations next week. The new phases include people between the ages of 16 and 64 with severe health conditions. She said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment wanted Riley County to finish vaccinating individuals considered to be high-contact essential or critical workers before moving to the next group. The health department had an open call for people in that category, and Massimi said they will start to sprinkle in people in the next phases next week.
"We're pretty anxious to get to those folks in the 16-64 category," Massimi said.
Massimi said the health department already has people who qualify under phases 3 and 4 registered online, and those individuals should receive notices for their appointment times.
People still have to register through the survey link on the coronavirus section of Riley County's website at rileycountyks.gov and be deemed eligible before receiving appointment scheduling instructions.
"I know there will be a bit of a learning curve (with the new website), but people can call us, and we're happy to answer any questions or help (people) schedule a time if they don't have computer access," Massimi said.
To make sure nobody slips through the cracks, Massimi said the health department is working with local entities to check on residents who might not have signed up for a vaccine. The department also has a list of homebound residents, and EMS crews along with health department employees are vaccinating those who cannot leave their homes.
The health department also has been able to administer vaccines to some homeless people in the community. Massimi said with the help of local aid organizations Be Able and Common Table, health officials vaccinated about 20 people during one of Common Table's community meals.
"That was a great opportunity, and we will look to do more in the future to focus on the underserved populations of our community," Massimi said.
Massimi said people from all county departments have volunteered their time and energy to help with the clinics, and that effort has helped the operation run smoothly.
"At most, people have waited an hour, but normally they are able to pull up, park, and wait a bit for their shot," Massimi said. "Then it's a poke and it's done."