COVINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday praised the mass vaccination clinic at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center as a modern medical miracle — one that will, given time, patience and an increased vaccine supply from the federal government, help protect thousands of Kentuckians from COVID-19.
“Visiting these sites is a moving experience where you feel purpose and hope and relief and so many emotions all at the same time that it’s really hard to describe them,” Beshear said.
The Kroger-run clinic opened Feb. 12, a day behind schedule, due to widespread snow and ice throughout the region.
Beshear said the clinic has vaccinated over 2,500 patients since opening and has the capacity to provide even more vaccinations each week when the federal government increases Kentucky’s weekly supply of doses.
At the time Beshear spoke, that weekly supply stood around 86,000 for a state with 4.5 million residents. Kentucky health officials expect a significant bump in March, he added; the imminent arrival of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which appears on-track for FDA approval in late February, will help even more.
And the existence of large, centralized vaccine centers like the one in Covington will ensure the state can get its new doses out quickly and efficiently instead of scrambling to increase capacity, Beshear said.
“We don’t want any waiting or any lag time,” he said. “No matter how much they give us, we want to be able to get 90% of it in people’s arms in just that first week. Again, we are putting these shots in people’s arms faster than the federal government can get us doses.”
About 8% of the state’s population — 555,373 individuals — had received at least one COVID-19 shot by Friday afternoon.
The state remains in Phase 1B of its scheduled four-phrase rollout, meaning only members of certain government-designated groups can get the vaccine. Kentuckians over 70, first responders, K-12 school personnel and child care workers will remain the state’s highest priority for some time, Beshear said.
He predicted, however, that Phase 1C — a phase the includes all Kentuckians over 60, all essential workers and anyone over 16 with a high-risk health condition — could begin as early as March 1.
“I will say, 1C’s a really big group, and so when we open it up to 1C, we’re going to need patience out there as well,” the governor said.
Further-off phases would include everyone over 40, everyone over 16 and, in the final phase, children under 16.
The pandemic has claimed 4,373 Kentuckian lives since March 2020, when the Kentucky Health Department began recording cases and casualties on its website.
Beshear encouraged Kentuckians to remain dedicated to COVID-19 safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing until vaccination is more widely available and circumstance is more friendly to the resumption of pre-COVID life.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing ever brighter, and right here, today, in this place, you can see it more clearly than ever,” Beshear said. “Make sure that we protect one another until we’re all the way out of this tunnel, into that sunlight, it’s 70 degrees outside. We can all take our masks off at that point. It’s safe.”