State beating teacher, other deadlines; partners with Kroger for vaccines across the state

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state has partnered with Kroger to establish hubs across the state to handle coronavirus vaccinations. The hubs will be similar to the testing centers Kroger set up for the state that became a model for the nation.

At the same time Thursday, the state said it expects to have all teachers and educational staff who want the vaccines to be inoculated by Feb. 5.

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Initially the state had said it hoped to start vaccinations for educators that week but the process has moved faster and should further increase in the coming days, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his briefing Thursday.

In the state-Kroger partnership, Kroger Health will support the phased approach, focusing first on priority populations as defined by federal and state governments. The state of Kentucky is currently in Phase 1A and beginning to vaccinate those eligible for Phase1B.

All of Phase 1 is expected to begin February 1, 2021.

Ann Reed, president of the Louisville Division said, “As one of the most-accessible health care partners in the U.S., Kroger is prepared and ready to play an active role in helping distribute the vaccine in collaboration with the state of Kentucky. Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to protect and provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while working diligently to provide open stores, e-commerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food, essentials and health care.”

The first mass drive thru clinic will begin the week of February 1. The location and scheduling details will be shared publicly on January 28. Once more vaccines are available, the efforts will consist of a combination of mass vaccine events across the Commonwealth, and appointments at The Little Clinics and pharmacies within Kroger store locations.

With 101 pharmacies and 43 Little Clinic locations in Kentucky, Kroger’s widespread presence in local communities gives the company a unique ability to efficiently administer the vaccine to a large portion of the population.

Beshear noted Kroger already has helped the Commonwealth respond to and suppress the three major waves of coronavirus that have threatened to overwhelm Kentucky’s health care infrastructure.

“Kroger has been a key Team Kentucky partner in our war against COVID-19 from the very beginning, and today’s announcement will continue to save lives across the Commonwealth,” the governor said. “Last spring when the virus was first spreading here, Kroger stepped up to help us create a coronavirus testing operation and later surge testing protocols that have become national models of what to do right. Now, Kroger is once again answering the call and helping us get these safe, effective vaccines distributed and administered to our people.”

In discussing the partnership and the increased vaccinations for educators, Beshear said, “The pace is really picking up.”

The more than 60,000 vaccinations done last week in the state program was more than twice the previous week and more shots given than vaccines received.

Beshear said the state soon will get to the point where it is giving vaccines almost as fast as they arrive in the state.

Logistics are sometimes slowed because the federal government does not notify the state of its allotment of vaccines until Tuesday afternoon and then the state has to figure out where to have them shipped to maximize efficiency. That sometimes doesn’t happen until Friday as the state assesses areas of need.

It’s those processes that sometimes explain why in some parts of the state, vaccinations of educators is ahead of other areas and why in some places, health departments and local governments are opening up shots to more people.

“The goal is to get 90 percent of the vaccines given…that’s the federal mandates. That impacts what happens in some parts of the state opposed to others,” Beshear explained.

Current Transportation Secretary Jim Gray, the former mayor of Lexington, will oversee the Kroger partnership and other expansion of the vaccine processes.

The number of Kroger sites will expand as the state starts getting increased doses of vaccines.

“What we need now is increased production and more vaccines,” Beshear said, “but we intend to bring the vaccine as close to people’s homes as possible.”

As the state finishes up first responders, long-term care facilities, health care workers and others in the first tier of priorities, the state will open up vaccines to the so-called tier 1C, which includes essential workers, people over 60 and people with certain health conditions that make them susceptible to the virus.

Those guidelines are set by the CDC and the state will follow them.

The state is working on a new web site and phone hotline to make getting information, making appointments and finding eligibility. Those sites will be launched Jan. 28 if not sooner.

Phases 2 and 3 which “basically covers healthy people” will come in late spring and summer although the prospects of a new vaccine from Johnson and Johnson could move up that timeline, Beshear said.

“The great news is, we expect to finish first dose vaccinations for school staff the week we said we would start,” said Beshear.

The Governor urged Kentuckians to be patient as vaccine allocations from the federal government are still far too small to cover everyone in Phase 1A, 1B and 1C who wants to be vaccinated. However, it is critically important that the state gets vaccines into arms quickly. That means in some cases, vaccine providers will need to vaccinate Kentuckians out of the phase sequence in order to meet the state’s goal of administering 90% of vaccines within one week of their arrival at a distribution site.

The Governor and the Kentucky Department for Public Health outlined these phases to help providers distribute vaccines in the most equitable order they can while still vaccinating people as fast as possible. To learn more, see the Jan. 4 release.

“I know people are understandably anxious and want to get the vaccine as soon as they can, especially those who are high-risk. We want to do our very best to put those people in the front of the line, but we also need to move quickly so vaccines don’t just sit in a freezer, helping no one,” said Beshear. “The faster we increase our vaccination numbers, the safer we all will be, because we will get closer to herd immunity as a state more quickly. That’s the overarching goal, so we ask Kentuckians to bear with us if they have to wait a little while in order to get an appointment.”

Kentuckians seeking more information on the current phase and how they can sign up may visit Kycovid.19.ky.gov.  For information on Kroger’s vaccine efforts and to learn more visit Kroger.com/covidvaccine or call 1-866-211-5320.

The Governor said 324,650 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been received in Kentucky and 172,537 doses have been administered. Of the doses administered, 28,977 have been given to long-term care facility residents and staff.

More than 67,000 doses were administered from Jan. 3 to 9, about 30,000 more doses than were administered the week prior. Since Jan. 10, more than 45,000 additional doses have been administered.

Walgreens and CVS have a contract with the federal government to administer vaccines to residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

Adam Mather, inspector general at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, announced that during the week of Jan. 4 to 10, Walgreens completed vaccinations at 72 long-term care facilities, with 3,512 residents and 2,059 staff receiving doses.

That week, CVS completed vaccinations at 75 long-term care facilities, with 2,973 residents and 2,432 staff receiving doses.