Beshear takes aim at slow vaccine rollout, announces change for providers

Vaccine providers are now expected to get 90 percent of the vaccines they receive each week out into the population.
First week of 2021: Vaccines, voting and a jobs report
First week of 2021: Vaccines, voting and a jobs report
Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 6:27 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - A new goal for Kentucky’s vaccination providers will allow them to distribute some amount of excess vaccines to people outside the rollout’s rigid phases, meaning a member of the general population could receive a dose before an at-risk person, a healthcare provider or an essential worker.

Gov. Andy Beshear and Department of Public Health Provider Steven Stack, MD, announced the new goal for vaccine providers Monday.

The goal encourages providers to inject 90 percent of the vaccine doses they receive in a week. Those deemed highest priority according to the rollout’s phases (below) will still get that priority, but excess doses should be distributed rather than remain in storage.

“The goal is not to have vaccines sitting in a freezer,” the governor said. “The goal is to have them distributed to willing residents.”

As for how the new goal will work in practice, a provider might advance to a different phase in the rollout when a defined population is available. For example, if fewer-than-expected healthcare workers opt for the vaccine in a given week, the provider might move on to a provided list of school personnel.

The governor said a sign-up/appointment system is forthcoming for undefined populations, including those 70 and older and all ensuing phases of the rollout.

The system promises to allow Kentuckians who want the vaccine to identify themselves. The state will then attempt to secure them a dose.

“We’ve got to get these things out faster. I’m not okay with the pace that they are currently being provided,” Beshear said. “We have too many people out there who are rightfully anxious, and they need to see this whole country pick up the pace. We are certainly going to do it here in Kentucky.”

The rollout’s phases are as follows, with phases 1c, 2, 3 and 4 newly announced Monday to help providers as they attempt to satisfy the 90-percent goal:

  • 1a: Long-term care facilities; healthcare personnel;
  • 1b: First responders; anyone 70 or over; K-12 school personnel;
  • 1c: Anyone over the age of 60; anyone older than 16 with the highest risk COVID-19 risk conditions according to the CDC; all essential workers;
  • 2: Anyone over the age of 40;
  • 3: Anyone over the age of 16; and
  • 4: Children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group (est. 18 percent of Ky. population).

“We are committed to getting this done quickly, efficiently and in the best way we know how and are able to deliver. We’re committed to ramping up the pace dramatically,” Stack said. “We’re asking every vaccination site to use the prioritization guidance and stick with that, but the top level goal is for every vaccine administration site in the state to administer 90 percent or more of the vaccine doses they receive within one week, so we don’t have vaccine doses waiting in a freezer until the next week.”

In explaining the slower-than-expected rollout, the governor said the federal government erred in underestimating how long each vaccination takes to administer. Stack also pointed to the novelty of the vaccine, uncertain quantities, the holidays, an exhausted healthcare workforce and a new data system as factors.

So far, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard, Kentucky has received 122,100 of the 202,650 vaccines promised by the federal government through the end of 2020.

Of those, it has vaccinated 60,414 people, comprising 49,733 healthcare providers and 10,641 in long-term care facilities.

Daily reporting — “in each and every part of the system” — has been a challenge, prompting the governor to shift the state’s vaccine dashboard from daily to weekly updates. The dashboard will be updated Mondays until reporting is more consistent by providers, Beshear said.

The 90-percent goal will be expected of hospital and local health departments going forward, though it remains uncertain whether it extends to CVS and Walgreens, with which the federal government is contracting to distribute vaccines to long-term care facilities.

Aiming to help CVS and Walgreens, Beshear announced Monday the state has offered more staffing, including National Guard personnel, to help the rollout to long-term care facilities. The state has not heard back about the request.

According to Stack, given conservative estimates on vaccine shipments and distribution and without factoring in any other vaccine approvals, around half of Kentucky could be vaccinated by June.

At the same time, Stack expressed optimism on all three fronts, saying distribution is going to “escalate dramatically starting this week and going forward” and several additional vaccines could be approved in the coming months.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 case, hospitalization and testing numbers are up compared to mid-December.

  • New cases: 2,319
  • New deaths: 26
  • Positivity rate: 11.2 percent
  • Currently hospitalized: 1,737
  • Currently in ICU: 456
  • Currently on ventilator: 216

The governor offered Monday’s report with caveats about reporting over the holiday, adding some time will need to transpire before the picture of COVID-19 in Kentucky clears.

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