Lack of manpower causes department to cancel flu shots, immunizations

By Chance Chamberlain

The Cass County Health Department in Harrisonville has cancelled immunizations this year, including flu shots, due to funding and staffing issues. Alternate immunization options have been provided by the health department because of the inconvenience of the cancellations.

Director of Health at the Cass County Health Department, Andrew Warlen said, “The immunization cancellations are due to funding issues. Funding for the health department is a little different in Cass because we are funded by grants and fees whereas most other health departments are funded by taxpayer money through various tax levies. Warlen added that the health department is short staffed due to the funding issues as well as their efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are smaller than most health departments that serve 100,000 people. We have 13 members of the staff and only one of them is a nurse who performs immunizations. She would typically be available to handle immunizations, but she was named manager of the COVID Response Team,” he said.

“Funding issues aren’t solely to blame for our staffing complication because we have moved people around to fill important roles in our efforts to keep the county healthy during the pandemic.

“Right now, the health department is completely invested in COVID response and we are using nearly all of our resources for COVID related efforts. Our staff has worked seven days a week during the pandemic and have done a great job,” Warlen said.

Although the health department cannot administer immunizations, Warlen said they are referring patrons to local pharmacies and neighboring counties for flu shots.

“We are recommending that adults get their flu shots at local pharmacies because they are typically available to provide that service, but we have referred people to Bates or Jackson counties for child immunizations.

“Those larger health departments are funded by the taxpayers, so they have a larger staff with greater infrastructure. That allows them to serve their communities to the best of their ability,” he said.

The health department may not provide immunizations this season, but Warlen mentioned there are many preventative measures that people can take at home to stop the spread of the flu.

“The best thing to do right now is to follow COVID-19 guidelines. If you are abiding by protocol, then you have a greater chance of staying healthy this flu season,” he said.

“Influenza is a respiratory illness that is transmitted the same way as COVID-19, so wearing a mask, social distancing and staying home when possible will increase your odds to stay healthy.”

He added, “Really, all I can say is to just continue to follow those guidelines. They help slow the spread and lower the chance of people getting sick.”

For more information about immunization locations or COVID-19, call the Cass County Health Department at 816-380-8425.

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