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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Kentucky

  • Kentucky is now administering COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna to residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities and health care personnel, who make up Phase 1a of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
  • Kentuckians age 70 and older are expected to begin receiving vaccines by early February as part of Phase 1b of the state plan. Adults age 60 and older are included in the next phase, 1c, which is expected to begin in the spring. Federal officials announced Jan. 12 that they’re strongly recommending that all states allow those 65-plus to be vaccinated, but it’s not clear if the announcement will affect Kentucky’s plan.
  • Vaccine news is changing quickly. Check this guide for updates in the days ahead.  
    Covid Vaccine Trial
    Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images

When can older adults get the vaccine?

Adults age 70 and older are expected to start receiving the vaccine by early February as part of Phase 1b of the state’s multi-phase vaccination plan, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.   

As of mid-January, some cities and counties had started vaccinating older adults ahead of schedule. Residents age 70 and older in Shelby, Spencer, Trimble and Henry Counties can register for a vaccination appointment online, as can Louisville residents in this age group. Online registration for Oldham County residents age 70 and older is expected to begin Jan. 15.  

Phase 1a, now underway across the state, includes long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and health care personnel. Phase 1b includes adults age 70 and older, first responders and K-12 school personnel.   

Adults age 60 and older are in Phase 1c, which also includes essential workers as well as people age 16 and older at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying condition, as defined by the CDC. Vaccination of this group is expected to begin in the spring, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health.   

Federal health officials announced Jan. 12 that they strongly recommend that states open vaccines to those age 65 and over, but the recommendations are not mandatory and it’s unclear if the announcement will affect Kentucky’s plan. The new recommendations also urge that states give vaccines to all adults with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, including diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services said Jan. 12 that the federal government would begin releasing all available vaccines, rather than holding back second doses, and that Americans would still be able to get second doses on time.  

The department expects to begin vaccinating other groups in late summer, starting with Phase 2 vaccination of people age 40 and older. Phase 3 includes anyone age 16 and older, and Phase 4 is intended for children under age 16 if vaccines are approved for this age group.   

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older people are at higher risk of death. “There’s no time to waste. It’s time for full-scale mobilization, and any delays or early bottlenecks in distribution systems need to be addressed urgently,” says AARP Kentucky State Director Ron Bridges. “AARP remains committed to protecting the health and well-being of our nearly 38 million members nationwide, our 430,000 Kentucky members, and all Americans as we work together to defeat this virus.”  

Where can I get a vaccine?   

The vaccine is currently being administered in closed settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. As supplies increase, vaccines will likely become available at locations like doctor’s offices, pharmacies, public health departments and community drive-through clinics but full details about when, where and how older adults can be vaccinated are not yet available.   

Health care personnel can use the vaccine locations map on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website to find the vaccination site nearest them. This map is intended for use by healthcare personnel only, not by the general public.   

The federal government announced Jan. 12 that it’s urging states to work with pharmacies and community health centers to distribute the vaccine to those eligible, and to set up mass vaccination clinics, but it’s not clear when Kentucky will do so.  

How do I know when I’ll be able to get a vaccine?   

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness and benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.    

For up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Kentucky, visit the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website. You can also call at the state COVID-19 hotline at 800-722-5725 with general vaccine questions.   

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.   

The initial COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. “What you have is you get some degree, not optimal, but some degree of immunity a couple of weeks after the first dose,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in December. “That's not optimal. After the second dose, you get optimal immunity anywhere from seven to 10 days after the second dose."   

At their initial vaccination appointment, Kentuckians should receive a vaccination card stating when they were vaccinated, which vaccine they received, and a second-dose due date, according to the state health department. The department advises that you schedule an appointment for your second dose upon receiving your first one.   

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine?  

The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. The two national drugstore chains say that more than 48,000 of the 50,000 skilled nursing and assisted living communities in the U.S are participating in the program.    

Kentucky is participating in the federal program, and vaccination began at nursing homes and long-term care facilities in late December and is expected to continue through the end of January.   

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?  

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries, with no copays. Some health insurance companies have announced that there will be no out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.  

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.    

How long does immunity last after I get vaccinated?  

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like the flu shot.    

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-world conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer vaccine is effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others.   

“We’ve got to be careful until we are all vaccinated,” said Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Executive Policy Advisor Mark Carter in a recent press briefing. “That means … wearing face coverings, taking care of our hygiene [and observing social distancing].”    

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity and continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing.  

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren't evident in the expedited development and review process.   

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This guide was originally published on Jan. 13. It was updated on Jan. 14 with new information about local vaccine availability. 

Also of Interest: 

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