Sen. Moran visits COVID vaccination clinic at VA of Eastern Kansas, talks areas affected by pandemic

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 6:29 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) got a look at local COVID-19 vaccination efforts ahead of a key meeting in Washington D.C. later this week.

He toured the vaccination clinic at the VA of Eastern Kansas’ Topeka location Monday morning ahead of a meeting of a veterans committee hearing, on which Moran is the ranking Republican member on the panel.

He said he wanted to get a better idea of the veteran vaccination efforts in Kansas and said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen.

“It is pleasing to me to see the efforts that are underway to make sure that veterans are willing to be vaccinated get the opportunity,” he said.

“Everything I can see and here both from talking to VA officials here but also from talking to veterans it’s very welcome and very appreciative and a lot of veterans are anxious to get that vaccine.”

He said he spoke with several veterans at the clinic on why they are choosing to get vaccinated.

“It’s for the reasons you’d expect it ‘I want to see my grandkids, I want to travel again’, ‘I want to get back to normal’ and while we’re struggling to make sure that there’s a vaccination available across Kansas around the country I want to pay attention to what happens to veterans and the VA is a fully engaged in that effort.”

Where his concern lines, he said, is the state’s rankings in vaccination administration and cited multiple factors as the cause.

“There are still people who are reluctant to be vaccinated that’s part of it I don’t think that’s a Kansas issue but it’s a nationwide issue,” he started.

“In Kansas, there has been at least an explanation, if not an excuse, that our recordkeeping as to who actually gets the vaccine what the numbers are is inadequate, it bothers me that Kansas has been at a low scale on that list I would think that recordkeeping the bureaucracy the paperwork that comes with this the computer work that comes with this would be a problem across the country.”

He continued, “the issue that rests with me the most is how do I get more vaccine produced in this country and distributed to Kansas”.

Moran was uncertain when asked if President Joe Biden should invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) so pharmaceutical companies can amp production of COVID vaccines.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to that but I don’t know that it’s effective I don’t know the answer to that on the surface is the utilization of the Defense Production Act if it is effective and has a result, then it’s worth doing,” he said.

“I’m told the difficulty of manufacturing this drug is that there’s a shortage of the ingredients, a shortage of employees and a shortage of the equipment in order to increase the production so it’s not as if we can simply say ‘add six more machines and hire 10 more people’ even if it was required by law it may not be physically or practically that good.”

While the pandemic remains an issue, the senator said there’s a dual challenge of combating the financial effects of the arctic weather that has hit the state.

He said he’s looking for a solution.

“There are Kansas may receive utility bills that are totally unaffordable and significant hundreds of times more than their normal monthly bill,” he said.

“From a Washington D.C. point of view looking to see whether LIHEAP, the funding that’s available to pay for utility bills in winter, might be available for this we’re also talking to FEMA to see if there is a designation by the state of a request from the state of Kansas for a disaster declaration that to see what FEMA could provide.”

Moran said the main pandemic-related issue his office gets calls about is regarding the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL).

He said he received a notice that he applied for unemployment insurance and pointed to problems KDOL has with fraud detection.

“There is a problem and just ability for the Department of Labor to keep track,” he said.

“I hope it’s improving but based upon the number of phone calls we get which we’ve been referred to state officials there’s a lot of Kansans who are struggling to get there their unemployment benefit.

The senator added there is discussion underway regarding the next Coronavirus Relief package to increase unemployment benefits by an extra $100 per week.

He said while there are benefits to increasing payment, he is concerned that it could cause Kansas to further modify its computer program to add the additional money.

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