All Ky. Public School Personnel to Receive Vaccine Before End of February, Stack Says
From the Kentucky Department of Education, released following the Tuesday meeting of state superintendents.
The target date to begin vaccinating K-12 education personnel has always been Feb. 1, plus or minus a week, said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH). He wanted to arrange distribution through large retail pharmacies to standardize the process, but many local entities sought to get involved and help. That complicated things, and DPH is now working on individual programs for each of Kentucky’s 120 counties, Stack said.
Nevertheless, he committed to giving all of the state’s public school personnel at least one opportunity to be vaccinated before the end of February.
Phase 1A of vaccinations serves only healthcare workers and nursing home residents. School personnel are in phase 1B, which also includes first responders, police and corrections officers, and any state resident age 70 or older.
That puts several hundred thousand people in line ahead of school personnel, or alongside them, but educators still are ahead of most of the rest of Kentucky’s 4.5 million residents.
Dr. Connie White DPH deputy commissioner, emphasized that the vaccine is safe and said she is recommending it for her own 91-year-old mother.
“Rest assured, we are trying to get this out as quickly as possible to any willing person in the state of Kentucky,” White said.
Kentucky’s emphasis on protecting school personnel may be unique in the country, but the supply of vaccine is still limited, Stack said.
“We get about 53,700 doses of vaccine every week,” he said. A first shot for educators of the two-dose vaccine would take nearly two weeks’ worth of the state’s entire supply, Stack said.
The state is not told exactly how many weekly doses of vaccine it will receive until the preceding Friday, which makes planning difficult, White said.
Updates to the rosters of employees willing to be vaccinated, which school districts sent to DPH, should now go to a local contact person, she said. That person, soon to be assigned for each county and school district, will note changes and order the needed doses, White said.
Final distribution will be worked out locally, perhaps through a pharmacy, a hospital drive-through, or shots administered at schools, she said.
Districts may not receive enough vaccine for all personnel in one shipment, so they should consider methods of prioritizing distribution such as offering it first to elementary teachers, older people or those with other health conditions, those who have the greatest exposure to many students, or personnel serving at-risk student populations, White said.
Even people who already have had COVID-19 should be vaccinated because the immune response from the disease itself is not as strong as the one provoked by the vaccine, she said.
It is still possible to become infected after being vaccinated, but the disease’s severity will be greatly lessened, White said. Because people who have been vaccinated may still transmit COVID-19 to others, it’s important that people continue to wear masks, wash their hands and continue social distancing, she said.
White asked superintendents to publicize their own vaccination to help encourage others and urge them to get it as well.
Meanwhile federal policy on vaccine distribution continues to change, and will change further with the inauguration of the President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20 and his incoming administration, Stack said.
Glass said more information on use of the new federal funding and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will come in the next Superintendents’ Webcast on Feb. 9.