Vaccination rates in some Kansas City-area counties lower than hard-hit Springfield

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Some counties in the Kansas City metro area have even lower COVID-19 vaccination rates than the Springfield area, which is facing a surge of cases that is overwhelming the health care system in southwest Missouri.

Health officials have attributed the spike in cases to the spread of the more contagious delta variant, loosened restrictions and low vaccination rates.

At 45.4%, Missouri’s vaccination rate lags behind the national rate of 55.5%, according to data from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some areas in southwest Missouri fall well below the statewide rate.

In Greene County, 39.2% of the residents have initiated vaccination. Even lower are Douglas County at 18.6% and Newton County at 21.1%.

However Joplin has the third highest rate in the state at 49.7%, behind Boone and St. Louis counties.

Kansas City has the sixth highest rate at 43.8% which is followed by Jackson County at 41.9%.

But surrounding areas in the metro are far lower: Platte County sits at 30.6% while Clay County is at 35.3% and Cass County is at 35.7%.

Health care experts in southwest Missouri have issued warnings about the delta variant while pleading for people to get immunized.

Over the July 4 holiday, Mercy Springfield had to get ventilators from other hospitals.

Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Springfield, said the need for ventilators escalated quickly.

“I believe this rapid escalation in demand for respiratory support should be a lesson for all in health care who have not yet experienced the delta variant,” he posted on social media.

“I hope our ongoing experience can continue to provide valuable information to our colleagues across the nation specifically in areas of low vaccination acceptance like ours.”

Infections have been on the rise in the Kansas City metro area as well. More than 395 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, increasing the seven-day rolling average to 214. The average has not been this high since Feb. 13, according to data tracked by The Star.

Kansas City Health Department statistician Alex Francisco said the delta variant is more transmissible and has a higher rate of hospitalization.

“The case rate, it’s comparable now to what it was a year ago right before we had another big wave and that’s going to be a real issue, especially as the delta variant comes into Kansas City,” he said.

“Because all of the restrictions have been lifted, the best way to protect yourself from COVID is through vaccination.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is available for free at the Kansas City Health Department at 2400 Troost Ave. The health department is also hosting a vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Smith Hale Middle School, 9010-A Old Santa Fe Road. Appointments are not required.

To find pharmacies or other vaccine providers, go to vaccines.gov.

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