vaccine

Liberty Fire Chief John Mills and Sara Cooke, Liberty city assistant administrator and strategic communications officer, are leading task force efforts with Clay County Public Health Center, Liberty Hospital, Pleasant Valley, Excelsior Springs, Gladstone, Kearney and Smithville to create more COVID-19 vaccination sites in the Northland.

LIBERTY — Liberty Fire Chief John Mills and Sara Cooke, Liberty city assistant administrator and strategic communications officer, are leading task force efforts with Clay County Public Health Center, Liberty Hospital, North Kansas City Hospital and the cities of Pleasant Valley, Excelsior Springs, Gladstone, Kearney, North Kansas City and Smithville to create more COVID-19 vaccination sites in the Northland.

“There has been a lot of good work and preparation,” Liberty Mayor Lyndell said during a city meeting this week. “There are a few more hurdles with software, recording and tracking. While we are exploring area facilities for vaccination sites, we are not ready to share those locations yet.”

Due to the structure of the cooperation, Mills is listed as incident commander. He is handling assignments, scheduling and logistics for this cooperative task force.

The first effort is to see a smaller-scaled site going through the vaccinations in a day or two, Mills explained. Mills said he wants to see those shots in arms within a couple of days.

“We can then show the state that we are up to the challenge,” he said. “We have the staff within this county to make it work. Cities and schools are coming together. We are taking all these ideas and making it work.”

Mills said one effort is to get 140 nursing students at William Jewell College in Liberty vaccinated so they can serve as vaccinators.

“We hope to hit the ground running as soon as possible,” he said. “The plan is to start with a smaller clinic site at a yet-to-be determined location. It will demonstrate to the state that our work is sound.”

Mills said cities are offering resources, including funds as well as manpower. As an example, Gladstone is prepared to allocate resources to help distribute the vaccine to the public as soon as possible.

“We are going to be seeing EMTs possibly helping with vaccinations and patient monitoring,” City Manager Scott Wingerson said. “We are pooling our resources together to take care of Clay Countians.”

City leaders are hoping to see some reimbursement in the future from the state or federal government. Efforts are also in the works to find a larger site with Liberty Public Schools offering chairs and tables, Cooke said.

Liberty Councilman Kevin Graham said he is pleased with city leadership, but disappointed with Missouri’s overall ranking in COVID vaccinations.

“Missouri is dead last,” he said. “It is a massive failure at the state level. ... We need to be aggressive with state leadership.”

“The other hope in all this is to see Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine approved by the FDA,” said Mills. “The plan for this is a one-shot system that doesn’t require the freezers. It’s more like the flu shot. If it works, we can see drive-thru as part of the plan as well.”

More details on this developing story will be published as they become available.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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