FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky officials announced the next groups to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be those aged 70 years and older, first responders and K-12 school personnel.
Gov. Andy Beshear and Department of Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack, MD, revealed the so-called Phase 1b groups in Kentucky’s Monday COVID-19 briefing.
Phase 1a is underway with long-term care facility staff and residents and healthcare personnel in clinical settings. Also included are Kentuckians who work in environmental services, front-line operations, interpretation services, dental care and home-based health care staff. Stack estimated at least 200,000 Kentuckians fall into in this category.
Phase 1b is expected to begin around Feb. 1, Beshear says, and will likely take the month of February to complete. Those dates depend on manufacturing schedules and decisions at the federal level, according to the governor.
The first responders included in Phase 1b include police, fire and EMS personnel. Some overlap with the healthcare workers included in Phase 1a is expected, according to Stack.
Phase 1b’s school personnel includes teachers as well as maintenance and janitorial staff and bus drivers.
Stack asked patience of off-site administrative personnel at schools and hospitals, who are not included in the first phases.
Phase 1b’s largest and most salient group includes those 70 and older. The group comprises 75 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky, Stack says, and exacts an outsized toll on hospital resources. Their vaccination will reduce both mortality rates and resource use, freeing up space for hospitals to care for those with heart attacks, for example, or other conditions.
“In Kentucky, we are going to include people who are 70 and older – that’s five years younger than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended. We believe here, because we have such a disproportionate burden of death in this population, we want to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible,” Stack said. “We are also going to include first responders who haven’t been vaccinated in Phase 1a already, as well as K-12 school personnel.”
Kentucky is on track to receive 202,650 doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines by the end of 2020. Another shipment in the thousands is expected to arrive before the new year but is unlikely to be distributed until the first days of 2021.
As of Monday, 26,336 vaccine doses have been distributed in the commonwealth, including 17,752 to hospital for healthcare workers, 2,788 to local health departments and 5,796 doses to long-term care facilities.
“Remember, this vaccine roll out is, I think, one of the toughest and largest logistics challenges we’ve seen since World War II,” Beshear said. “It’s not going to be clean the entire time – we’re building the airplane while we’re flying it – but right now, we believe we’ve got the right plan in the right way to distribute this vaccine equitably all across the state.”
Scarcity of vaccine doses is a driving factor in how it is distributed, a point Stack repeated throughout the briefing Monday.
Nationally, around 250 million Americans will be eligible for the vaccine, but just 50 million vaccinations will be possible by March 1, Stack says.
The presentation slide below lays out an ideal distribution plan, but with a limited supply of vaccines, Stack argues the Phase 1b category of Frontline Essential Workers requires subdivision, leading to Kentucky’s Phase 1b plan outlined above.
KDP reported 1,455 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday as well as eight new virus-related deaths.
Trends in weekly cases, positivity rate and hospital bed usage show the winter surge of COVID-19 has likely plateaued in Kentucky — and could be starting to decline, according to Beshear.
The governor continued to credit the hard work of Kentuckians as well as the steps he took in late November to enact a weeks-long pause in certain activities statewide, such as indoor dining and in-person education.
Case numbers for last week are likely affected by several labs being closed during the holidays. Nevertheless, the governor maintained his stance on the virus’s likely plateau and possible decline.
Kentucky’s current positivity rate is 7.97, its lowest level since Nov. 8, Beshear says.
Some 1,552 Kentuckians are hospitalized with COVID-19, 411 are in ICU beds and 217 are on ventilators, according to KDP.
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