On a day when five former Kentucky governors and 11 members of the current General Assembly leadership publicly received COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Andy Beshear expressed his frustration with how quickly those vaccines are being rolled out in the state.
“I’m not satisfied with the pace of vaccinations in Kentucky,” Beshear said Monday during a briefing in which he reported that the state had received 174,750 doses of the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna but that only 60,414 total doses had been administered. “We’re going to do better.”
The slow rollout of the vaccines isn’t limited to Kentucky.
Just a few weeks ago, federal officials said 20 million Americans could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2020. As the year came to an end last week, the CDC said only 2.1 million people had gotten shots.
Beshear and Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack pointed out the difficulties of rolling out the vaccines during the holidays, but both men said there needs to be a heightened sense of urgency as the state administers the vaccination program.
Beshear, in fact, announced a goal of administering 90 percent of all the vaccines received in the state within seven days of arrival.
“The goal is not to have vaccines sitting in a freezer,” Stack said. “We have to pick up the pace, and I think it will increase in the coming weeks. We’re going to take additional steps so that any Kentuckian wanting the vaccine will be able to get it.”
For now, the state is working to roll out the vaccines to health care workers, long-term care and assisted living facility residents and staff and first responders in phases 1A and 1B of the vaccination plan.
Phase 1B also includes people age 70 and over and K-12 education personnel.
Beshear said those populations should begin receiving vaccinations by the end of January or the first of February.
He said the state will coordinate with school nurses and public health departments to administer vaccinations to school personnel.
For the 70-and-over population, Beshear said the plan is to do the vaccinations by appointment only to avoid the type of crowds that can lead to a “super-spreader” event.
“By the end of January or the first of February, we will provide information about how those 70 and above can sign up,” he said. “I would like to see more drive-through sites.”
Beshear and Stack announced more details on the vaccination rollout plan that is expected to stretch into the summer. Phase 1C will include those age 60 and above, anyone older than 16 with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highest-risk conditions for COVID-19 and all essential workers.
Phase 2 will include those age 40 and above. Phase 3 will include people 16 and above. Phase 4 will include children under age 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group.
Without giving details, Beshear said some “large-scale vaccination sites around the state” will be needed to execute the plan.
The governor said Monday’s event in the Capitol Rotunda during which the five former governors and their spouses were vaccinated was done to demonstrate the importance of getting the vaccine.
The five former governors were Martha Layne Collins, Brereton Jones, Julian Carroll, Steve Beshear and Ernie Fletcher.
“These men and women showed their willingness to lead once again by stepping forward, regardless of party, age or geography, to spotlight the safety and the value of this vaccine in ending this nightmare for Kentucky and emerging a better commonwealth,” Andy Beshear said in a news release. “Thanks to them for demonstrating the importance of this vaccine in saving our fellow Kentuckians and ending this pandemic.”
Beshear said the 2,319 new cases reported Monday was the highest number yet for a Monday. He also reported 26 new deaths and a positivity rate of 11.2%.
“We do have real concerns that people getting together over the holidays will lead to an increase in cases,” Beshear said. “It’s concerning when you look at a big jump in the positivity rate.”
Stack said four of the state’s 10 regions are now in the “red” zone, indicating a dangerously high level of hospital capacity.
Region 4, which includes Warren County, is at 57.6% capacity for hospital beds and 83.3% capacity in intensive care unit beds. Use of ventilators, according to Stack, is at 29.8% of capacity in Region 4.
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