Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Supply finally exceeds demand: Beshear lets any Kentuckian 16 and older get a coronavirus shot starting Monday, April 5

Gov. Andy Beshear displayed this slide listing vaccination
sites with the most open appointments. To enlarge, click on it.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky will open up coronavirus vaccinations to residents 16 and older Monday, after thousands of appointments across the state have gone unused, showing the state's challenge has shifted from supply to demand. 

"This is a good day," Gov. Andy Beshear said at his final news conference of Easter Week. "It means that we will beat the president's request by a month to have it opened up to  everyone."

The governor and his lieutenants have lamented for months that the main challenge in getting Kentuckians vaccinated has been "supply, supply, supply."

But last week, Beshear started providing a list of vaccine sites across the state with hundreds and sometimes thousands of appointments available. Now the Department for Public Health has a daily "Where Can I Get Vaccinated?" report on the its vaccine website, listing places with open slots and how to register for them. 

Today, Beshear mentioned the four sites with the most slots available: Norton Healthcare in Louisville, the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park Convention Center in Gilbertsville and Baptist Health Madisonville.

"Let's get this done. Let's get vaccinated. Let's reach herd immunity. Let's defeat Covid-19 for good," the governor said. "To do that, we've got to make sure that everywhere across the state, we are filling up our vaccination openings." 

Asked if vaccine doses are going unused, Beshear said only that the state knows of no wasted doses, but "What we are seeing is areas where they believe the demand is waning," and some have asked to decrease their supply, allowing it to be redirected to other parts of the state where it is being used. 

One of those waning-demand regions appears to be Western Kentucky, where Beshear said more than 1,000 appointments are available. 

He said there may be some who will never choose to get a vaccine, and "It's going to take some time to convince those who are hesitant, and there may be some that'll never get it, but we also need to see strong local leadership, which we're seeing in places.

"It makes it harder, in places where leaders may have downplayed the virus. I hope now they spend twice as much effort in pushing people to get vaccinated. . . .  You will see us continuing to ramp up our communications, That's paid communications, that's radio ads, billboards, more use of local leadership as we move forward. So our campaign on that side ramps up as we start seeing the hesitancy, trying to use the dollars at the time that they are most effective."

Beshear said he was opening vaccines up to all residents 16 and older because there has been a rise in cases and hospitalizations in other states, primarily in younger people; getting more people vaccinated will limit mutation of the virus into more aggressive variants; and empty vaccine slots need to be filled. 

Only the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. The two-dose Moderna and one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available to those 18 and up. 

The state's daily vaccine report shows that 1.4 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, more than any bordering state, but Beshear called on people to remain enthusiastic about getting vaccinated and asked the news media to help him spread the word that vaccines are available statewide. 

"I believe people want to go and get the vaccine, that demand is still strong," he said. "But we may be working with harder to communicate with populations, and we can use your help." 

The numbers: Beshear announced 815 new cases of the virus, raising the seven-day rolling average by 18, to 607 cases per day. For the last week the average has fluctuated between 589 and 614, making a rough plateau.

Likewise, the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days rose slightly, to 2.96%. In the previous seven days it ranged from 2.85% to 2.92%. 

All Covid-19 numbers in Kentucky hospitals rose Wednesday, and Beshear said they are being watched. There are 413 Covid-19 patients, up 14 from Tuesday; 110 of them are in intensive care, up 4; and 48 of those are on ventilators, an increase of 11. 

The rate of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky over the last seven days is 10.96 per 100,000 residents. The New York Times says Kentucky's rate is 34th among the states. Counties with rates double the state rate are Owsley, 38.8 cases per 100,000; Powell, 37; Harlan, 36.2; McCreary, 34.0; Simpson, 33.1; Lee, 30.9; Lyon, 26.1; Whitley, 26; Martin, 23; and Knox, 22.9.

The state added 25 more deaths to its list of Covid-19 fatalities, bringing the toll to 6,090. Three were from the ongoing audit of death certificates and 22 were from the regular health-department reporting system.

The 22 were a Barren County man, 83; a Boyle County man, 79; a Caldwell County man, 75; a Crittenden County woman, 77; three Hardin County women, 65, 66, 79; a Hardin County man, 89; a Harlan County woman, 83; two Jefferson County women, 66, 70; a Jefferson County man, 66; a Larue County women, 80; a Laurel County woman, 66; a Laurel County man, 92; a Letcher County woman, 81; a Logan County man, 68; a McCracken County woman, 72; a Nicholas County woman, 96; a Simpson County man, 62; a Warren County man, 80; and a Whitley County man, 78.  

Variants: Beshear said the state has detected 66 total cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and that there are 10 in Allen County; 10 in Jefferson County; and up to 13 in Kenton County.

Kentucky Health News asked the governor's office how many cases have been tested for the variants, but has not heard back. 

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that draws only from publicly available data and is updated on Sundays, Kentucky has genomic sequenced only 757 coronavirus test samples. That is one of the lower rates in the nation, 0.179%. 

Among the seven border states, Tennessee's .089% is one of the lowest rates in the nation, and Virginia's .686% is the best border state, at .686 %, but that is far below Wyoming, which ranks highest at 5.82%.  

Experts have been sounding the alarm that the U.S. is not doing enough genomic testing to have a real picture of how the virus has mutated, but states are beginning to reopen and abandon their mitigation strategies. Only 16% of Americans have been fully vaccinated and 29% have had at least one shot, The New York Times reports. 

Just as there was not enough testing for the virus in the early days of the pandemic, there is now not enough gene sequencing to monitor how the virus is evolving and moving through population, says an article on The Conversation, a site for journalistic writing by academics. The authors say the nation needs to set up a "genomic surveillance system" to detect variants of concern and develop responses to them.

Prisons and vaccines: Beshear said that the state's prisons will be provided enough one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines by April 5 for every inmate who wants to be vaccinated. He said the two Lyon County facilities recovering from recent outbreaks, the Kentucky State Penitentiary and the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, will have to wait until health officials deem it safe for them to get it.

After Beshear's briefing, The New York Times reported that a factory mixup had led to a halt in shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which could delay the prison vaccinations.

In other pandemic news Wednesday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 112; Fayette, 63; Warren, 41; Scott, 31; Boone, 28; Daviess, 27; Kenton, 24; Clinton, 21; Pulaski, 19; Laurel, 18; Oldham, 15; Bullitt and Hopkins, 14; Whitley, 13; Perry, 12; Knox, 11; and Hardin, Harlan, Marshall and Simpson, 10.
  • Kentucky will open its largest vaccination site Monday, April 12, at Cardinal Stadium, through a partnership with U of L Health. It will have 24 lanes for drive-thru vaccinations, with a goal of doing 4,000 shots a day. Kentuckians can sign up at 502-681-1435. The hope is that nearly 200,000 people will get vaccinated in the seven weeks that the site will be operational. 
  • No new cases were reported among long-term care residents, and only three were reported among staff. Today's report shows 50 active resident cases and 74 active staff cases. Also, no new deaths were reported in long-term care facilities, which got priority for vaccinations.
  • A Texas doctor claimed that the vaccines are not only ineffective, but are "experimental gene therapy." Dr. Steven Hotze made the claim in a video that has been shared thousands of times. That is false, writes Donald Forthal, a professor of molecular biology at the University of California. He notes that the RNA in the vaccines is not incorporated into genes, and rapidly degrades after doing its work, and multiple tests have shown the vaccines to be around 95% effective at preventing severe disease.
  • Pfizer reported that its coronavirus vaccine was 100% effective in protecting children 12 and older against the virus in a small study of 2,200 children. The company will need emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to be able to offer the vaccine to the younger group. Last week, Pfizer started testing its vaccine in children aged 6 months to 11 years. Moderna announced that it had begun a clinical trial among children.
  • Click here for the governor's press release that includes information on the eviction moratorium being extended and an unemployment insurance update. 

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