Long-term care residents, employees getting vaccine

With more shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Kentucky, protecting the state’s long-term care residents and employees began on Monday. 

Last week saw frontline healthcare workers at 11 acute care hospitals get vaccinated, and the rest of those facilities are also getting their first of two injections this week. 

During a Monday afternoon virtual press conference, Gov. Andy Beshear called this another great and hopeful day in the battle against the coronavirus. 

“Today we celebrate another great and hopeful day in our battle against COVID-19,” he said.  “Long-term care residents and the front-line staff who care for them are beginning to receive the life-saving Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Since two-thirds of coronavirus deaths in Kentucky come from long-term care facilities, these vaccinationsa modern-day medical miracle, have the real potential to save lives and significantly reduce COVID-19’s burden on our health care system.” 

Beshear noted over two-thirds of the deaths in Kentucky are related to long-term care facilities, “so these vaccinations have the real potential to deal the coronavirus a significant blow, and to lessen the loss that we have all lived through here in the commonwealth, and to do so in just a couple of months.” 

The governor said long-term care residents require the most care when they have to go to the hospital, “Vaccinating them early will also increase our healthcare capacity so that others who show up to the hospital, whether it’s with COVID or having a heart attack or even a stroke, can get the care they need and we have the capacity in terms of beds and medical professionals to take care of them.”       

Walgreens pharmacy employees are providing COVID-19 vaccinations in approximately 800 long-term care facilities in Kentucky and 11 other states this week, in both rural and urban areas. Monday saw the first five locations in the state, in a process likely to take until the beginning of March before it is completed. 

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander described the day’s events as “gratifying, the beginning of an end, but with the finish line still at a considerable distance. After months of battling the pandemic, which has made a tragic and indelible impact on Kentucky’s seniors, given that over 66% of COVID-19-related deaths have been among residents of these facilities, today is as unforgettable as March 6, 2020.” 

That is when the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in Kentucky. 

“If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that what happens to one of us happens to all of us,” Friedlander said. 

According to Friedlander, there are 20,000 Kentuckians in skilled care facilities, with another 5,000 in assisted or personal care centers.  

Beshear says the next groups that the state is looking to prioritize for vaccinations are workers in essential businesses and people who are 75 and older, according to the most recent guidance they have received from the federal government.