FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky wants to limit drive times for people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as it expands its inoculation network, a top state official said Monday.
In a state with broad stretches of rural territory, the goal is for no one to have to travel more than one county away to get the shot, said Jim Gray, who is overseeing the vaccine distribution project.
With about 34 vaccination sites so far statewide, demand continues to far outpace available vaccine, said Gray, who is also the state's transportation secretary.
One high-volume regional vaccination site is opening Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, starting the state’s vaccination partnership with the grocery store chain Kroger. Other new sites announced last week are in partnership with hospitals in Paducah and Danville.
More inoculation sites will be announced in coming weeks. To overcome the logistical challenges, the state is looking at population, equity and drive-time issues in choosing sites, Gray said.
“The goal is that no one will have to drive more than one county away to get a vaccine," Gray said. "Now we’re not there yet, but that is the goal.”
The statewide network also will include hospitals, health departments and pharmacies, he said.
“This will allow us to reach those individuals, those most vulnerable who cannot travel to a regional site,” Gray said.
In discussing the logistical challenges of developing the vaccination network, Gov. Andy Beshear said: “We’re building the airplane while we’re flying it.”
With demand running so high, vaccine supplies remain “very tight,” Gray said.
More than 422,000 vaccine doses have been sent to Kentucky, with more than 362,000 already administered, Beshear said. The state is approaching its goal of getting at least 90% of vaccine in people’s arms within seven days of its arrival, he said.
The state already is capable of vaccinating up to 250,000 people each week, but available supply is the limiting factor, said Beshear, who has expressed frustration with the pace of vaccine deliveries.
“We have three problems right now — supply, supply and supply," the governor said. "We can distribute them faster than the federal government can provide them.”
President Joe Biden has promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks. Kentucky's Democratic governor has called it a “great start.”
The state’s 70 and older population are getting the highest priority for vaccinations because of the enhanced risks they face from the virus. Other groups in the two highest-priority tiers remain eligible for vaccinations. Those groups also include health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, emergency responders and K-12 school personnel.
Among K-12 staff, everyone wanting the vaccine is expected to receive a first shot by week’s end, the governor said. School workers are being prioritized in a push to reopen schools.
Meanwhile, Beshear reported that coronavirus cases statewide have fallen for three straight weeks. On Monday, the state reported 1,623 new virus cases and 35 more virus-related deaths. That raised the state's death toll from the pandemic to at least 3,780.
More than 1,300 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 337 in intensive care units, Beshear said. The statewide rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 was at 8.85%.
Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.