COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: Where Does Christian County Stand?
The first doses have gone to health care workers and, more recently, Christian County school staff, as local health officials gradually open vaccinations to local residents who fall within the next phase of the state's distribution plan.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Christian County Health Department had administered COVID-19 vaccinations to approximately 1,500 Kentuckians, according to department spokeswoman Amanda Sweeney.
County Health Director Kayla Bebout said that 600 more appointments were scheduled for Thursday at the James E. Bruce Convention Center, where the department began operating one of Kentucky’s 33 regional vaccine clinics on Tuesday.
The first doses have gone to health care workers and, more recently, Christian County school staff, as local health officials gradually open vaccinations to local residents who fall within phase 1b of the state’s distribution plan. Those who are coming to the site from outside the county can only receive a vaccine if they fall within phase 1a, Bebout said.
The department does not have a breakdown of how many vaccine doses have been administered so far to Christian County residents versus those from outside of the county, Sweeney told Hoptown Chronicle.
The health department is distributing the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose 28 days later. Both doses are necessary for protection, which is estimated at about 94%. Health experts say it can take up to two weeks after receiving the second shot for the vaccine to become fully effective.
Sweeney said the department is scheduling appointments for the booster upon initial vaccine.
Most local health workers who wanted vaccine have received it, health director says
Phase 1a of Kentucky’s vaccine rollout plan, which is still ongoing, reserves doses for health care personnel and long-term care facilities.
When it comes to health workers, local hospitals are tasked with vaccinating their employees, while the health department is responsible for administering vaccines to “non-hospital” health care staff.
Of the estimated 1,000 employees who work for Jennie Stuart Medical Center and its affiliate providers, 450 — or 45% — signed up to receive the vaccine, hospital spokeswoman Selina Staub told Hoptown Chronicle. The hospital finished administering those doses last week, she said.
The vaccination rate was similar at Western State Hospital, according to Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Susan Dunlap, who called the staff’s 50% acceptance rate “a disappointment.” She added that “acceptance rates appear to be increasing as staff see that the vaccine is safe and those receiving the vaccine are generally not experiencing any significant side effects.”
Bebout said Wednesday that she’s confident most non-hospital health care personnel who wanted a vaccine have received one. In addition to allowing providers to sign up online for the last several weeks, department staff reached out directly to as many county agencies as possible, she noted.
The health department was unable to provide the county’s total number of non-hospital health workers.
State urges quicker vaccine administration
Facing a slower-than-expected vaccine rollout, Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack recently called on vaccine providers to use at least 90% of doses within seven days of receipt.
“We want people to follow the priority list. But the most important thing is we want 90% of all doses that they get in people’s arms in that week,” Beshear said. “So, that means that in some areas, or even maybe just in parts of some weeks, that you’re going to see in different parts of Kentucky, movement into different priorities — from 1a to 1b to 1c. And we’re going to have to do that, and we’re going to have to have that flexibility if we want to vaccinate quickly.”
During his daily update Tuesday, Beshear noted that early vaccine allocations were based on where hospitals were located — not population numbers. The distribution left some counties with more doses than they needed for phase 1a, prompting them to move on to subsequent phases.
According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 153,498 Kentuckians had been vaccinated as of Wednesday. Approximately 27% of vaccines designated for long-term care facilities have been administered, while 56% of vaccines had been administered to other early-phase target groups.
School staff vaccinations began Tuesday
On Tuesday, 219 staff of Christian County Public Schools — including Superintendent Chris Bentzel — were vaccinated for COVID-19, district spokesman John Rittenhouse told Hoptown Chronicle. Nearly 600 others were expected to receive the vaccine on Wednesday Of the district’s 1,200 employees, 802 — or 65% — signed up for the vaccine, according to Rittenhouse.
CCPS had initially planned to resume in-person instruction on Jan. 6, following the winter break, but delayed the return following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The district’s most recent announcement, pushing back the date until at least Jan. 18, stated that 82 district staff members had either tested positive or were under quarantine.
At University Heights Academy, where students and teachers returned to campus on Jan. 4, the vaccine rate was 53%, according to Headmaster Beth G. Unfried. She said the 32 UHA staff members were expected to receive the vaccine by the end of the day on Thursday.
Heritage Christian Academy Headmaster Linda Garris declined to provide the school’s vaccination numbers, citing privacy concerns. HCA also returned to in-person instruction on Jan. 4.
Bebout said local schools provided the health department with staff lists to help verify individuals receiving the vaccine were local school employees.
“They can’t come to Christian County [from another school] to get vaccinated,” Bebout said. “They have to be on a list with one of our Christian County schools in order to get the vaccine.”
Long-term care vaccinations are underway
Vaccinations at long-term care facilities — which have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths — are underway, with local doses being distributed by Kroger and Walgreens.
In Christian County, long-term care residents have comprised just 6% of coronavirus cases, but nearly 60% of all deaths.
At Christian Health Center, where nearly all residents tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months, the vaccine’s arrival has been eagerly anticipated, Christian Care Communities President and CEO Mary Lynn Spalding told Hoptown Chronicle.
The nursing home held a vaccination clinic on Wednesday, during which nearly 100% of residents and 80% of staff were expected to be vaccinated, Spalding said.
Other local long-term care facilities told Hoptown Chronicle they expect to receive vaccines this week.
More than 2,000 requests have been received from residents 70 and older
Earlier this month, the health department started taking names of residents 70 and older who wanted a COVID-19 vaccine. After about a week, more than 2,000 people had signed up, Sweeney said.
According to 2019 census estimates for Christian County, that’s about 35% of total residents within the age group.
The department has since suspended sign ups for those 70 and older.
“We are currently working through the current list of names and once we vaccinate everyone on the list, we will open a roster that allows the community to schedule their own appointment,” Sweeney said in the announcement. “If you have filled out the form to be placed on the waiting list, you are currently on the list, so please be patient as we get to your name. We will be contacting you as quickly as possible.”
The health department is contacting people in the group who have registered for the vaccine by text message or automated phone call. Sweeney encouraged residents who are contacted to respond using the link that is provided. If they are not able to use the link, they may call the health department 270-887-4160 to secure an appointment time.
(Julia Hunter is the engagement editor for Hoptown Chronicle. Reach her at email@example.com.)