As Kentucky continues to vaccinate its citizens at a rate higher than the national average, Governor Andy Beshear’s recent announcement opening COVID-19 vaccinations up to those Kentuckians 16 and older, will likely see that trend continue into the future.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Commonwealth has seen approximately 20 percent of its population vaccinated. Approximately 25 percent of Kentuckians 18 years and older have been vaccinated, while approximately 53 percent of those 65 years and older have been vaccinated.
In Whitley County, 18 percent of Whitley Countians have been fully vaccinated, with approximately 24 percent of those folks being 18 years and older. Around 60 percent of Whitley County’s residents 65 and older have been vaccinated as of Monday.
Whitley County Health Department Public Health Director Marcy Rein said she thinks the vaccine roll-out in Whitley County is going well at this point, citing the increased number of places offering the vaccine as a big reason why.
“That gives the Health Department a chance to shift focus to helping those who might have a more challenging time accessing vaccines in a traditional environment like a pharmacy or hospital,” she explained.
Mark Hensley, the Public Health Director at the Laurel County Health Department, echoed Rein’s remarks, as Laurel County has seen around 17 percent of its total population vaccinated. Of those, approximately 19 percent are 18 and older, while 45 percent are 65 and older.
According to those same CDC statistics, Knox County has had approximately 14 percent of its population vaccinated. Around 18 percent of Knox Countians 18 and older have been vaccinated, that number jumps up to approximately 45 percent with the 65 and older age group.
Both the Laurel County and Whitley County Health Departments have been administering the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. While Johnson and Johnson only requires one dose of the vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires two. Both Rein and Hensley say most people have been punctual in showing up for their appointments to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, however they have also noticed that some folks miss their appointment to receive their booster, or second shot, as a result of receiving it somewhere else.
Rein said this can be challenging for health officials, considering the handling requirements for the Moderna vaccine. For example, once a vial of the Moderna vaccine has thawed and been punctured by a needle, officials have just six hours to administer all ten shots that come in a vial of the vaccine.
“We have had a few days where we were scrambling to find someone who could get here fast,” Rein said, adding her department had not wasted a single shot of the vaccine.
The Laurel County Health Department has moved to same day appointments, which Hensley says has worked out well. People wanting to be vaccinated can call for an appointment on that day. Hensley says if the schedule is full, they can call back the following day.
At the Whitley County Health Department, officials have closed their waitlist. Rein cited the increasing supply of vaccines readily available in the community as a reason why, noting that nearly two-thirds of those on the health department’s list report already getting the vaccine somewhere else.
A number of local pharmacies in the area have begun receiving and administering vaccines, including West Knox Pharmacy in Corbin who is administering the Moderna vaccine. Knox Professional Pharmacy in Barbourville and Plaza Drug in London both are administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Windham Drug in Williamsburg is also administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but says they have not received a shipment in two weeks. However, they are still adding those who call to their waiting list and will continue administering the vaccine when they receive a new shipment.
Local Walmart, Kroger, and Walgreen pharmacies are also administering vaccines. More details on how to signup for a vaccine through those establishments can be found on their websites respectively. Corbin Baptist Health is continuing to administer the Pfizer vaccine. To register there, visit ScheduleYourVaccine.com.
With more and more vaccine options becoming available to the general public, Hensley says he hasn’t noticed anyone canceling their appointment due to vaccine preference, but that his department has witnessed some decline an appointment until they can receive the vaccine of their choice.
“If someone has a preference, I recommend they check vaccinefinder.org, where they can limit the search to specific brands and see who has it in stock,” said Rein.
And while there is still a portion of the Tri-County’s population still hesitant about getting vaccinated, Hensley says he has seen the overall hesitancy shrink. Rein credits folks being able to see their loved ones, friends, and family get vaccinated as a reason why she has seen more and more people get vaccinated.
“Some of that is the ongoing reports coming out confirming their effectiveness, safety, and even protectiveness to babies born to moms who were vaccinated,” she explained. “We have heard from many that were waiting for a one-shot option.”
Rein went on to say that health officials continue to look at different factors that make some people feel uneasy about getting vaccinated, and are working to address their concerns. She points to FAQs posted on the health department’s website, as well as information available from the CDC and Kentucky Department of Public Health as tools to help those with concerns.
“The more people that get vaccinated as soon as possible, the better our chance of beating this pandemic,” she said.