Healthcare providers in Letcher County began getting their second doses of COVID-19 vaccine yesterday (Tuesday), as two versions of the vaccine are being distributed across the country.
Persons over 70 years of age who are not in long-term care facilities or other congregate living quarters are now being vaccinated for the first time, and health officials say they have been swamped with requests for the immunization.
Dena Sparkman, community CEO for Whitesburg ARH Hospital, said persons who want the vaccine from the hospital should visit www.arh.org and look for the link to sign up for the vaccine.
“There is a COVID link on there and it puts you in line. Our phone lines are swamped,” Sparkman said. “It’s more than what we can handle on the phone lines, and I’m also going to ask people not to call back and ask why we haven’t called them yet. I assure them, they are on the list.”
Meanwhile, the number of Letcher County residents contracting COVID-19 is beginning to slow down, with the incident rate this week falling by a third compared to a week earlier.
According to state statistics, the rolling seven-day average incident rate for the county stood at 61.0 per 100,000 on Tuesday, down from 92.8 a week earlier. The total number of cases as of Tuesday was 1,378, up from 1,289 a week earlier. The state is now listed five deaths in the county, but that number has proved unreliable and low over the past several weeks.
The vaccines for the virus were distributed to frontline health care workers first, including first responders. The first vaccine given — developed by Pfizer — requires a booster shot 21 days after the initial vaccination. The second – developed by Moderna – requires a booster 28 days after the initial vaccination.
While the anti-vaccine movement has spread misinformation across the Internet about the vaccines, the efforts haven’t seemed to put a damper on enthusiasm here for being immunized. Though there has been reluctance on the part of some people here, overall Letcher County residents are clamoring for the vaccine.
“Most people are anxious to get it,” Sparkman said. “There are some people who are reluctant, but that’s OK. We’re getting so many willing volunteers we’re not really trying to talk anyone into it.”
New doses arrive every week, but the amount available varies from week to week, Sparkman said. Whitesburg ARH received 400 doses in the first batch but has not received that many in any shipment since. The state has been getting about 54,000 doses per week and has increased the number of people vaccinated last week. About 80,000 doses were administered statewide last week – more than it received from the federal government – however Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that will not be possible once the unused vaccine it had built up during slower weeks runs out.
“We’re going to be able to give that vaccine as fast as we get it. Our only limitation is going to supply,” Beshear said.
State Director of Public Health Steven Stack said currently sites that want to vaccinate don’t know when they will get the vaccine, how much they will get, or if it will be a stable supply from week to week. He said challenge over the next few weeks will be to “bring order to chaos” and find a “rational ways to align vaccine with people who want to be vaccinated.”
“I am confident, in Kentucky, if we had unlimited vaccine, we could easily immunize 200,000 to 250,000 people a week right now,” Stack said.
All skilled nursing facilities – both patients and staff – have been offered the vaccine, and two-thirds of those in assisted living have had their first doses. All kindergarten through twelfth-grade school staff are expected to receive the vaccine by the end of the first week of February.
Covid cases reported in the region this week are as follows:
Knott – Total 852 (14 dead, incident rate 31.8)
Lee – Total 1,106 (18 dead, incident rate 38.6)
Leslie – Total 640 (1 dead, incident rate 68.0)
Letcher – Total 1,378 (5 dead, incident rate 61.0)
Owsley – Total 360 (10 dead, incident rate 35.6)
Perry – Total 1,873 (17 dead, incident rate 53.2)
Wolfe – Total 365 (4 dead, incident rate 22.0)
Harlan – Total 1,990 (27 dead, incident rate 58.2)
Pike – Total 3,974 (38 dead, incident rate 78.0)
Wise Co., VA – Total 2,526 (128 hospitalized, 74 dead)
Norton, VA – Total 224 (14 hospitalized, 3 dead)