FRANKFORT, Ky (AP) — Almost all coronavirus cases reported in Kentucky during the last four weeks have been in unvaccinated residents, the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, announced Thursday. Roughly 99% of those hospitalized were also unvaccinated.

“The bottom line is, these vaccines work, they work against every known variant of concern and interest out there right now,” he said a press briefing. “If you get vaccinated, you’ve essentially got a 90% plus reduction in your risk for death and serious disease and going into the hospital.”

Stack pointed towards Kentucky’s low test positivity rate of 1.85% as a sign that vaccinations continue to ward off an uptick in new infections. And though Kentucky has reported a seven-week decline of cases, he added, unvaccinated residents are vulnerable to the fast-spreading delta variant.

The delta variant now accounts for more than 20% of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S., doubling in just two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday.

Though 2.2 million, about 49% of Kentuckians, are vaccinated, rates vary sharply among different age groups. For instance, while 82% of Kentuckians 65 and up are vaccinated, only one-third of young adults 18 to 29 have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

“The new delta variant is dangerous, it’s more dangerous for younger people than previous versions,” Stack said. “We are going to see more younger people get hurt.”

In order to persuade more people to get the vaccine, Kentucky launched a ‘Shot at a Million’ Vaccine Incentive lottery earlier this month. Some 472,938 Kentuckians have entered to win and 26,636 have signed up for the chance to win college scholarships.

Kentuckians are eligible for the drawing if they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The first round of winners will be announced on July 2.


Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.