Doctor: Priority is giving “the sickest a chance to survive.”

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FAYETTE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Like others across the state, Fayette County’s health department is preparing for the arrival of coronavirus vaccines.

And once that begins, health department leaders expect changes and challenges before widespread vaccinations ramp up in the spring, the agency’s director, Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, told members of the Lexington Urban Council during a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

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The three vaccines that are almost ready to start being distributed all pose some challenges. Those from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses, which means the state has to accurately track who gets which vaccine to insure they get the follow-up doze of the right medicine.

In addition, when vaccines start arriving, the numbers may seem large but the public should remember 10,000 vaccines only treats 5,000 people because each person must get two doses.

The Pfizer vaccine poses special challenges because of its temperature storage requirements and short five-day shelf life.

The Moderna vaccine has less restrictions and a 30-day shelf life, Humbaugh told Council members.

The first vaccines could start arriving in two weeks in limited numbers. Patients in long-term care facilities and medical staffs there will be among the first to receive them, as will frontline health care workers.

As more vaccines arrive, doses will be expanded to other health care workers and first responders

In the meantime, the coronavirus surge is forcing hospitals to make changes to keep beds available and skilled doctors and nurses manning them. Treating the sick remains the priority.

“As we have said from the very beginning, we can’t stop the pandemic, but we can try to control it. Our goal is to give the sickest Lexingtonians a fighting chance to survive,” Humbaugh told the board, noting the department still fears the surge that has generated record levels of cases in the last month may get worse in the next week following increased Thanksgiving exposures.

City leaders say some departments are being hit harder than others. For instance, sewer line  maintenance which has 32 workers as 16 out either with the viruw or in quarantine because of exposure.

By contrast, the Police Department, which has had a total of 27 employees test positive, currently has four in isolation and none in quarantine, Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said.