The uncomfortable questions about who is first to get the COVID-19 vaccine will have to be asked.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As states prepare for the Coronavirus vaccine to arrive, the question on the mind of many is “who comes first”? Limited doses of the COVID-19 vaccine means public health officials must prioritize, it’s an unenviable position.
This week, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that just more than 38,000 doses of the vaccine are headed to the Commonwealth. That equates to only a fraction of the need.
“Is it easy to prioritize all of this? Not at all”, said State Representative Kim Moser.
Thursday the 64th District Republican, who is also a retired Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse, took part in a hearing about coronavirus commutations and asked the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary about inmates, the vaccine, and whether there’s a concern about liability issues.
“Is this why inmates have been added to Phase 1 of vaccine distribution”, asked, Representative Moser.
Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble, answered with a nervous laugh, “I’m not sure that we know that.”
The Cabinet’s General Counsel, Robyn Bender, then chimed in, “I don’t think we’re prepared to answer that question. I don’t know that we know that that’s happened.”
Representative Moser insisted that her information confirmed that Kentucky inmates were added to Phase One.
We poured over the state document about vaccine priority phases and while a national group suggests inmates should be in the first phase, Governor Beshear’s office insists that a group is still studying the matter.
The document also states, “KDPH and the Vaccine Allocation Committee will use new guidance in conjunction with previously published guidance to ultimately determine who the target populations and target groups.”
Monday, Dr. Steven Stack explained that long-term care facility residents and health care workers were in Phase 1A which means that they were at the top of the priority list.
Dr. Stack listed “Essential Workers” including “Education Sector, Food and Agriculture, Utilities, Police, Firefighters, Corrections Officers and Transportation” in Phase 1B.
Many will argue that all of these groups, and some not listed, should be given top priority.
“This is a terrible position to have to face”, said Representative Moser, “but, you know, this is what the federal government has asked the states to do because there is a limited number of vaccines that are coming to every state.”
While uncomfortable, questions about who comes first will have to be asked. Monday, Doctor Stack admitted that it’s a tough task as he suggested that vaccines will likely be in short supply until at least next summer.
Thursday during his COVID-19 briefing Beshear announced the state has decided on 11 Kentucky hospitals where the first distribution of the Pfizer vaccine will be allocated. All of the locations are capable of storing the vaccines at the low temperatures required. He expects the state to start vaccinations as early as December 15.