One in five unvaccinated Kentuckians say they are open to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
The state's hospitals are filled with COVID patients, and according to Gov. Andy Beshear, about 90 beds are left in Intensive Care Units. Sixty-six Kentucky hospitals report "critical" staffing shortages, and at least two dozen will soon receive backup help from the National Guard.
Ben Chandler, CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, sees the poll results as encouraging, showing there are still people open to learning more about the vaccine, so they can be better protected against serious illness and death.
"That's really good news, I think," Chandler remarked. "We've got a chunk of people there who have yet to be vaccinated, but who plan to get vaccinated."
State data showed the week of Sep. 12, the state's seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate was 13.88%, the highest recorded since Kentucky had adequate testing supplies.
In the poll, one in three Kentuckians reported "always" wearing a mask in an outdoor, crowded public space. More than one-quarter of those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine said they never wear a mask, while almost four in 10 who are not vaccinated stated they never wear a mask.
"But the vast majority, 70% of Kentuckians, think that the kids ought to wear masks in schools if they're not vaccinated," Chandler reported.
While some are keeping an open mind, more than one third of the unvaccinated people surveyed said "nothing" will motivate them to get the shot. Around 14% of unvaccinated respondents said they want "more time and research to be conducted" before they'd roll up a sleeve.
Chandler contended it is important communities focus outreach efforts on those individuals.
"And I think we need to reach out to those people and make sure that they know these shots are available, and let them know how they can get the shot," Chandler urged.
He added the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is offering $20,000 "mini-grants" to help local groups create new or expand their COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts.
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