Vaccine rollout slower than expected, smaller health departments impacted
MONROE COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) - The federal government came up short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December. Instead, only 4.2 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
States are unable to vaccinate individuals at a rapid pace due to a number of reasons including, lack of resources, lack of staff, but the slow rollout is mainly due to lack of vaccine shipments, officials say.
“From a federal level, I’m hearing other states as well discuss maybe the rate of vaccine shipment has not been, you know, as fast as what they had hoped for,” said Jill Ford, Public Health Director with Monroe County Health Department.
The slow rollout numbers are also reflected in Kentucky. Around 160,000 vaccines have been received throughout the state, and only 60,000 have been administered, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We are waiting on more vaccine shipments but from a health department standpoint, we hope to have that tier one vaccinated this week,” said Ford.
Based on the state’s plan, tier 1a includes long-term care facilities and health care workers. Vaccination plans for long-term care facilities are done by Walgreen and CVS through a state contract.
Meanwhile, Monroe County Health received 100 doses on December 22 and began vaccinating frontline workers the following day.
With only two nurses able to administer it at the rural health department, in addition to the holidays, it has taken longer than anticipated.
“We’re trying really hard to get our folks vaccinated,” said Ford. “Our hopes is, as this moves forward, and we get on into the other tiers that we will have providers as well as pharmacies in the community that will also be on board and be able to help vaccinate our community.”
The slow rollout numbers are also reflected statewide in Kentucky. Around 175,000 vaccines have been received, and over 60,000 have been administered.
“We’re really going to rely on our community partners throughout this vaccination plan. As I mentioned, the Monroe County Medical Center is currently vaccinating their staff. It’s our hope that they will also have agreed to also help us vaccinate our first responders,” explained Ford.
In addition to the issue with the shipments, some health officials say the slow rollout could be attributed to storage complications as well.
“The Pfizer vaccine by the fact that it has to be stored at the ultracold temperatures. And then after you thought and it’s diluted to be given, it’s only good for six hours,” said Melinda Joyce, the Vice President of Corporate Support Services at Med Center Health.
Moderna vaccines can be stored in a traditional freezer.
As many anxiously await their turn to be vaccinated, health officials ask the community for patience.
“[We] just ask that everyone tries to be as patient as I can, you know, hopefully, everyone will get their turn. We just have to move through these tiers the best we can and as efficiently and effectively as we can,” pleaded Ford.
The next phase for the vaccine is tier 1b which includes individuals 70 and older, first responders, and k through 12 staff. An official timeline is pending shipment and further guidance from the state.
Last week, Grayson County Health Department informed the public about the delay in the vaccine being administered at several nursing homes there. They attributed the delay to the state’s contract with Walgreens and CVS and couldn’t provide details because they were not included in the decision.
“We have no information as to why there is a delay. Again, we were left out of this decision. We went to work when we got our batch of vaccine—as instructed to do so. We are following the proper phases,” the department said in a Facebook post.
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