Health

Older adults in long-term care facilities in Kentucky began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday. 

Federal contractors with Walgreens and CVS are vaccinating staff and residents in at least five facilities across the state Monday, officials said. Gov. Andy Beshear said he expects residents at most of the state’s long-term care facilities will receive vaccinations by March. 

“Today there is somebody who has received this vaccine who is going to make it through this pandemic who otherwise wouldn’t,” Beshear said at a press conference Monday.

Older adults are among the most at-risk for contracting severe cases of the disease caused by COVID-19. Long-term care residents in the state make up more than two-thirds of Kentucky’s 2,397 coronavirus deaths so far. 

Early on in the pandemic, state officials expanded testing and limited visitations at long-term care facilities to try and minimize spread of the virus. Still, more than 9,500 staff have tested positive, Beshear said. 

To show the impact the virus can have on a single facility, Beshear highlighted the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, where 34 residents have died in the last two months. 

“And it shows how ruthless this virus is and why it is so important these vaccinations occur early in long-term care,” Beshear said. 

Vaccinations at the veterans center are expected to begin Tuesday, while on Monday, contractors began inoculating staff and residents at the Episcopal Church Home in Louisville. Recipients are scheduled to receive a booster shot in about three weeks. 

Executive Director Beverly Edwards said it’s only in the last month the virus has begun to take a toll on its staff and residents, but already, the impacts have been “heartbreaking.” 

“I am excited to receive the vaccination and I encourage everyone to take it to help our elders,” Edwards said. “Everyone has individuals within their lives that mean the world to them.” 

Kentucky has already received more than 23,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, more than a third of which have already been used to vaccinate frontline health care workers in the state, Beshear said. 

The state has not yet decided on which group could be next to receive the vaccine, but Beshear said age and career are two of the factors they are considering while planning their next steps. 

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.