UK extension offices serving as community COVID-19 vaccination sites
HENDERSON, Ky. (UK Public Affairs) – University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offices are partnering with local, state and federal agencies to serve as host sites for Covid-19 vaccine clinics.
“The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is trusted by Kentuckians for our ability to disseminate unbiased, research-based information and provide education to help them live healthier lives and better themselves,” said Laura Stephenson, director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service and associate dean in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Due to our strong relationships within Kentucky communities, state and federal agencies are increasingly seeing us as valued community partners and an asset in times of crisis, such as what we been experiencing throughout the pandemic.”
Community vaccination sites at the Henderson and Laurel extension offices opened the last week of April as part of a partnership with state and federal agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
“A lot of people in the community know this building,” said Amanda Hardy, UK extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Henderson County. “They are comfortable with coming to our building. We have great access to parking, and it just made sense.”
“Hosting a vaccination site follows right along with what we in extension have been trying to do throughout the pandemic in educating and encouraging Kentuckians to take steps to stay healthy and remain socially distanced,” said Bonnie Sigmon, UK horticulture extension agent in Laurel County.
The sites will serve as community vaccine clinics that take walk-ins and appointments for the next six to eight weeks and are in addition to the state’s existing vaccination sites. They also serve as a base for mobile vaccination units run by Wild Health Medical that will deploy across the region. In all, the two sites can administer 7,000 vaccines each week.
“After this long and difficult road and losing more than 6,400 Kentuckians, we deserve victory,” said Gov. Andy Beshear at the opening of the vaccination site at the Henderson County Extension office. “With partners like FEMA, we are moving steadily toward it. These vaccines make a difference for so many and allow so many more people to get together.”
The Henderson site is staffed by Department of Defense soldiers from the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, DOD medical command and Health and Human Services federal personnel, Kentucky National Guardsmen and local emergency management.
The Laurel County office is staffed by personnel from the National Disaster Medical System, American Medical Response, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management and Kentucky Department of Public Health.
“Our top priority is to ensure that people who want to get vaccinated get vaccinated, even in those underserved populations, those hard-to-reach areas,” said Gracia Szczech, regional administrator of FEMA Region IV. “That’s why this plan has come together in getting the mobile areas out there and placing this site here to make sure its easily accessible to those who want a vaccination.”
“Today is all about health equity,” said Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. “Health equity means that everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles, and today we are taking yet another step in that process.”
Additionally, extension offices in Breckinridge, Washington, Owen, Boyle and Knox counties have worked with local hospitals, health departments and community partners to serve as vaccination sites for their communities.
As of May 3, more than 1.83 million Kentucky adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.