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Taking the shot: Health department giving vaccinations as quickly as they get them

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

 So far the Carter County Health Department has given out “about 333 vaccinations,” according to public health director Jeff Barker. 

“We’ve received three shipments of 100 doses per week,” Barker said. 

He noted that “some were a little more” than 100 doses, which is why they were sitting at 333 vaccinations last week. But, he explained, though they can give an extra shot out of a vial if it is a full dose, they aren’t allowed to mix vaccines out of two different vials. So, if they don’t have a full extra shot in a vial, they aren’t able to combine it with the next vial to stretch their supply further. 

This is just one of the rules that is holding the health department right around 100 vaccinations a week, though if they had more supply they could give more shots. 

The first doses administered in the county were given out to nursing homes, Barker told the Times. Those vaccinations came through Walgreen’s, who the state had contracted with to provide the vaccinations. 

“Then we got our first 100, to do non-hospital healthcare workers,” Barker said. 

After receiving those they vaccinated first responders, and have now moved on to vaccinate those 70 and older who want the vaccine. 

“Unfortunately, 100 doses is not much,” Barker said, but the state only has a limited amount of vaccine available, and they have to spread those out over all of Kentucky’s counties and municipalities. 

He said the next big push from the state will be to vaccinate teachers and other public school employees. He said they’ve set aside an allotment for K-12 personnel, which the county should receive soon. 

“They’re sending 600 doses for that,” he said. After the health department has finished administering those vaccines to teachers and others, they will go back to vaccinating the general public, focusing again on those 70 and older until they are all vaccinated and the department is able to move on to younger members of the public. 

He said that the vaccine is supposed to be released to chain pharmacies soon, which could enable more widespread distribution of the vaccine. That could make the vaccine “more readily available” as soon as February, he said, but precise details remain to be seen. 

He said the state is also looking at creating drive-up clinics where people can receive vaccinations, but he hasn’t yet heard of any sites being designated locally. While judge executive Mike Malone is encouraging those in Frankfort to consider a local drive-up vaccination clinic, and the local IKORCC has offered their union hall as a site for a drive-up clinic, Barker said he hasn’t heard any word from the state that they plan to act on that recommendation from Malone. 

If and when that occurs, however, the health department will help support those efforts. 

He said he and other health department directors are “constantly on calls” with state officials in Frankfort. They provide regular updates and changes to plans as they occur. But, he said, the entire process is unprecedented, and prone to constant change. 

“It’s almost like building an airplane while you’re flying,” he said.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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