Healthcare providers in Cowley County continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers, although a number of workers are still refusing the vaccine, local officials told the CourierTraveler on Thursday.

William Newton Hospital received its first doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020 and began giving them to staff the next day. The hospital has since received doses of the Moderna vaccine as well, WNH CEO Ben Quinton said at the hospital board of trustees meeting on Thursday. The hospital received more doses than it needs, and is coordinating with other health providers to distribute the extras to others who need it.

“Our needs are being met by what has been sent to us,” Quinton said.

Convincing more workers to get the vaccine continues to be a problem, though. Quinton said hospital staff are continuing to educate employees about the vaccine, and those who have received it will continue talking about their experience in hopes more staff members will choose to participate.

South Central Kansas Medical Center in Arkansas City received its first doses of the vaccine, 90 in all, on Wednesday, hospital spokesperson Trevor Langer said. Another 85 to 90 doses are expected in the coming days.

SCKMC didn’t get the vaccine earlier because of a logistical error where the Kansas Department of Health and Environment thought SCKMC was affiliated with a hospital in Andover, Langer said. The hospital received doses that were reallocated from other health care providers by the City-Cowley County Health Department.

Langer said employee willingness to take the vaccine is around 50/50 right now, and attributed the hesitation to media messaging about the vaccine. As its availability became closer, though, more employees have said they are willing to take it, Langer said. The vaccine is not being restricted to employees in certain departments at SCKMC and will be available to any who want it.

Even though there is reason to be optimistic with the arrival of the vaccine, “there’s still a lot of work to do until we are really back to normal,” Langer said.

David Brazil, director of the Community Health Center in Cowley County, which is based in Winfield, said the center has been collaborating with the city-county health department to get the vaccine out to health care workers in the county, including dental and mental health professionals. Brazil said between 50 and 60 percent of workers eligible to be vaccinated at the health center are scheduling appointments.

Regarding health center staff, Brazil said 55 percent have received the first dose of the vaccine, 32 percent have said they will consider getting it in the future, and 13 percent have said they will not get it at all. He said it is the employees’ personal choice on whether or not to be vaccinated.

“Once the public sees the vaccine is safe and effective, I think it will be readily accepted,” Brazil said.

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