During his COVID press briefing on Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the Commonwealth is expected to get 38,000 doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine as early as mid-December.
"At least the two that we know a lot about right now — as long as the data holds — are miracles," said Beshear, referencing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines.
So far, both vaccines have above a 90% effectiveness rate; Moderna's vaccine is 94% effective and was recently declared 100% effective against severe cases of the virus.
Kentucky will receive the Pfizer vaccine first, then the Moderna vaccine. Both require an initial dose followed by a booster. Beshear said "these shipments are going to be very limited," but the state should get 38,025 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by mid-December.
“Those will be provided to 38,025 different individuals. We can go ahead and provide the first of these shots, and then we will receive the booster shots about three weeks later,” Beshear said. “We will be ready on moment one that we’re able to start providing these vaccines.”
Approximately 76,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine should arrive by late December.
The first group to receive the vaccine will be long-term care residents and staff — roughly 26,000 doses. About 66% of COVID deaths in the state are from long-term care facilities. Since Friday, 445 residents tested positive for the virus, along with 292 new staff members cases and 70 new deaths.
“Every week we do not vaccinate long-term care residents, we lose them. With vaccines, we can provide such better protection to these individuals,” Beshear said. “We’ve been taking aggressive steps since the beginning of this virus, committed to fighting back, not surrendering to it or accepting avoidable loss.”
Long-term care residents also tend to take up more resources and need more care when they are hospitalized, so vaccinating them first will help reduce the stress on Kentucky's healthcare system.
As of yesterday, Kentucky reported 2,124 new COVID cases, 12 new deaths and a positivity rate of 9.42%, with 1,741 currently hospitalized.
Walgreens and CVS have been contracted by the government to help distribute the vaccines to long-term care residents and staff.
Frontline COVID healthcare workers will receive the vaccine next; about 12,000 doses will be distributed to facilites across the state. Kentucky is still finalizing those locations.
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said the Centers for Disease Control has an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that will be meeting to "further refine their recommendations" for "how we will use these vaccines when very small quantities are available at the beginning, but there are many, many people who need the vaccine."
This week, Kentucky is participating in a sort of drill — an "end-to-end exercise" — with the CDC to ship an empty thermal container and mock kit of the Pfizer vaccine to a clinic at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. To ensure its effectiveness, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70° Celsius (-158 Fahrenheit), and requires special storage freezers and shipping containers.
“There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not out of the woods yet. If we all mask up and socially distance, we can buy our hospitals the time they need,” said Dr. Stack.
You can read a full draft of Kentucky's vaccine plan at chfs.ky.gov.