State officials have decided first responders, K-12 teachers and Kentuckians over the age of 70 will be included in the next phase of vaccinations set to begin in late January or early February.
Mostly following an outline provided by federal recommendations, officials further subdivided the next groups to have access to the vaccine with an emphasis on preventing deaths.
Federal guidelines have recommended that people over 75 should be in the next group to receive the vaccine, but Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack says Kentuckians over the age of 70 should be the state’s next priority.
They represent about 75% of the reported COVID-19 deaths in the state and make up the largest number of hospitalizations, Stack said. Helping people over the age of 70 will ease the burden on hospitals and in turn benefit everyone, he said.
“By helping to protect this population, clearly we help to provide them some protections from these great harms, but additionally it helps to keep people out of the hospital with COVID-19,” Stack said.
Kentucky is expected to receive more than 200,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines before the end of 2020.
The first doses of vaccine are reserved for group 1a, which includes health care personnel working in clinical care settings and staff and residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities.
The federal government has contracted Walgreens and CVS to administer vaccinations in those settings. As of Monday, they’ve vaccinated more than 5,500 Kentuckians.
With the second phase, known as 1b, Stack said officials sought to balance the preservation of life with social functioning. The problem is that the size of the federal government’s recommendations for who should be included in the second phase far outstrips the amount of available vaccinations.
So, the state further subdivided the second phase: people over the age of 70, first responders including police and firefighters, and K-12 personnel including teachers, janitors and bus drivers.
“We’re trying to get these locations safe,” Stack said.
Kentucky COVID Case Numbers
Kentucky reported 1,455 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 8 new deaths. However, the data likely undercounts the true number of cases.
First, some labs closed for the holidays. Second, the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville knocked out internet and cell service in several states including Kentucky. Beshear said there may be a backlog of entries as a result.
Despite the data limitations, Beshear said COVID-19 is in its fourth week of decline in the state. Both hospitalizations and newly reported cases are at their lowest since Nov. 8th, he said.
“So you can see it in the cases, you can see it in the positivity rate, you can see it in the hospital census, and you can see it in the ICU census, all showing that we have been successful and yes I know it took sacrifice.”
Beshear credited November’s additional shutdown measures for assisting in the decline.