Vaccine Shortage and Distribution Update
January 31st, 2021
Representative Nancy Tate
After much uncertainty and anticipation, the COVID-19 vaccine is finally available on a large scale across the nation. Thanks to the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed and our congressional delegation, we were able to secure public funding to develop the vaccine and develop testing and treatment. Now that the vaccine is here, so is a renewed sense of hope and relief that the hardest days are behind us.
Less than 45 days after the first shipment of vaccines arrived at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, more than 320,000 doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered in Kentucky. This includes 271,339 from the state program, and 48,269 in long term care facilities covered by the federal government’s partnership with CVS and Walgreens. While these numbers are impressive, just 0.44 percent of Kentuckians have been fully vaccinated, meaning they have had both doses of the vaccine. Let me emphasize, that is less than half of one percent.
According to the Department of Public Health, approximately 1,500 providers in Kentucky are able to participate in the vaccination program, and could “probably do 250,000 vaccines a week.” To put this in perspective, we received only 50,000 doses the week of January 14. Demand is already far outpacing supply. As people in 1B and 1C apply to receive the vaccine and the demand skyrockets, we desperately need more doses of the vaccine.
To accommodate the one million Kentuckians that qualify for phase 1C, which is expected to begin February 1, the state has a new program administrator who will coordinate with the emergency management programs, Kroger, and other partners to establish regional hubs to vaccinate as many people as possible.
Of course, how we distribute the vaccine in Kentucky plays a big role in making the vaccine accessible. Until now, most vaccines have been available through public health departments, CVS, and Walgreens. The Governor announced in mid-January that Kroger will join the group, offering drive through regional clinics starting February 1. While it is good to have additional providers, we do not expect to see an increase in our supply so that means the vaccine is carved out of another provider’s amount. Think of supply like a pie, the more people who split the pie, the smaller each piece gets.
I have grave concerns that the increased emphasis on the regional distribution model and the shortage in supply are adding up to a lack of access for Kentuckians in rural areas. Take this district as an example. Some of my constituents must drive almost an hour to get the vaccine. Combine that drive with the fact they may end up waiting in line for hours and folks get discouraged from even trying. This is a very real issue.
In reality, a great deal of the supply issue is unavoidable because there are so many variables at play. That means Kentucky and other states are going to have to find a way to make it work. After all, leadership is about being prepared enough to make a plan and flexible enough to change it. The solution may be in how we approach distribution. This is a temporary situation, so maybe it is appropriate to try temporary solutions like pop up clinics, rotating supplies among local health departments, or mobile vaccination clinics.
Fortunately, more manufacturers are expected to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the next month. AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Novavax are nearing trial completion and would apply for authorization just as Pfizer and Moderna did.
For more information including COVID-19 testing sites, which vaccination phase you qualify for and how to apply for a vaccine, please visit the state’s new website dedicated to vaccinations – vaccine.ky.gov – or visit kycovid19.ky.gov.
Please contact me if you have any questions about the state’s response to the current pandemic by emailing me at [email protected] or by calling the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.