Kentucky Shifts Vaccine Focus to Schools

COVID vaccination efforts continue in Kentucky, with the focus shifting this week to K-12 teachers and school staff. Governor Andy Beshear told local elected leaders in a Wednesday morning meeting that the state is working to vaccinate as many people as possible while still following a tiered system.

Kentucky’s vaccine distribution plan calls for health care personnel and long-term care facilities and staff to receive the state’s first doses, along with emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. The governor said level 1A is almost complete and level 1B is well underway.

Becky Gillis, director of the Division of Public Health Protection and Safety for the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), reported in a Wednesday afternoon update of the state’s COVID Task Force that K-12 vaccinations will begin this week.

Health officials hope to have K-12 vaccinations administered by the end of February. Governor Beshear warned that phase 1C involves many more people than previous stages, including Kentuckians over age 60, those with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized health concerns and essential workers.

While Kentucky established a tiered vaccination schedule, health officials have stated that agencies administering the shot may go out of order if needed. “The most important thing is to get it in people’s arms and not waste any at all,” Beshear noted.

Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM) is working to locate possible sites for high-volume regional vaccination sites ‒ a distribution method recommended by the CDC. However, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack told local elected officials that the issue remains one of mathematics. Kentucky already has more than 1,400 registered vaccination sites, but the state only receives around 53,700 doses a week. “There is only so much to go around,” Dr. Stack said. School staff vaccinations will require 85,000-100,000 doses.

Kentucky still awaits guidance for the implementation of several components of the new federal COVID-relief bill President Trump signed into law last month. Governor Beshear reported that Kentucky formally applied on Tuesday for federal funds available to help people pay some utility bills. KYEM awaits clarity from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on a provision that provides for reimbursement of funeral expenses.

Kentucky continues to report high numbers of new COVID cases, including more than 26,000 last week. Wednesday’s report included 4,560 new cases, the fourth-highest day. Additionally, Kentucky had the third-highest day for COVID-related deaths, 47. Wednesday’s positivity rate was 12.29%.