Public wants COVID vaccines, too

Citizens call daily requesting vaccination, information

Many area residents are anxiously awaiting their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins.

“This is based on the number of people contacting us wanting the vaccine, and or, when it will be available. We receive calls, emails and texts all day long, 24/7,” Blevins said.

Dr. Gary Bunch, chief medical officer for Ephraim McDowell Health said, “The public is seeing others do well with the vaccine, while they are watching the numbers of COVID infections worsen and deaths increase daily. Demand for the vaccine is high and physicians’ offices are flooded with calls for the vaccine.”

He added, “Do not call physicians’ offices about the vaccine.”

“Currently, only hospitals and health departments can receive and administer the vaccine and only healthcare workers and front line workers are being vaccinated. The state of Kentucky mandates that the vaccine only goes to Tier 1 presently,” Bunch explained.

EMH doesn’t know when Boyle and surrounding counties will receive the vaccine for the general public.

“There have been roll out issues with all of the vaccines and we are hopeful to begin public vaccinations in February. Currently, only the Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, Ephraim McDowell Fort Logan Hospital and Ephraim McDowell James B. Haggin Hospital and the health departments are eligible to receive the vaccine and to give the vaccinations,” Bunch said.

When the vaccines are available to the public, Bunch said EMH’s plan is to vaccinate people at its primary care clinics, “but the state of Kentucky has to approve it. If not, we will continue to vaccinate at our three hospitals.”

Bunch warned people hoping to receive the vaccine this spring should probably not make summer vacation travel plans yet.

“Most people will require two vaccinations. After the first Moderna vaccine, the recipient is 50% immune to COVID at two weeks from the vaccination. Then four weeks after the first vaccination, a second vaccination is required which takes another two weeks to build up approximately a 95% immunity. So all together, it takes up to six weeks to reach maximal immunity.”

Bunch added, “We do not know at this time how long the immunity will last.”

About 1,050 EMH employees who requested the vaccine have been vaccinated and their second doses will begin Jan. 19.

“In addition, we have assisted the health departments by vaccinating prison guards, Walmart pharmacy and other pharmacy employees who are in Tier 1 of the vaccination role out,” Bunch said.

Blevins said he wasn’t sure when the general public will start being vaccinated either. “At this point, the governor has not let us know if the vaccine will come here first and then to the pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Hopefully the vaccine will go straight to them.”

And when the health department gets its supply of vaccines for the public, Blevins said, “We can definitely do drive-thru vaccinations, etc., as needed.”

He added, “Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will have more information from the state level and can give more definitive answers.”