Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that he wants all unvaccinated state residents to get the shots against COVID-19 amid its rapidly spreading delta variant.
“We have the most aggressive variant that we have seen to date in our battle against COVID. It’s a serious, even deadly, threat to unvaccinated Kentuckians,” Gov. Beshear said in a joint statement with Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “If more adults don’t get vaccinated, it’s not just adults who pay the price. It’s our kids who will. Many of them can’t get vaccinated yet, and they count on us to make good decisions and do the right thing.”
According to the state, 2,248,235 residents have received at least one dose of the three available vaccines, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna.
Both Pfizer and Moderna require two shots compared to the single dose from Johnson & Johnson.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky has vaccinated about 51% of its population of 4.4 million, most (83%) aged 65 and above.
This falls below the national average of 56.1% of the population with at least one dose of the vaccine, and 48.6% fully vaccinated.
The top five counties in the state have one-dose vaccination rates of between 57-66%, while the five bottom counties, Ballard, Christian, Hickman, Spencer, and Robertson, come in with between just 22-24% of people with at least one dose.
Cases, however, have risen in the last month, with the rolling seven-day new case average going up nationally from 11,474 on June 20 to 26,011 on July 18, according to the CDC.
Dr. Stack said the recent increase in cases is due to the delta variant of the virus with spreads much faster and that hospitalizations have surged some 30% in the past two weeks, with much higher rates in low vaccinated states like Nevada, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
“The delta variant is so contagious it will infect most unvaccinated people,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in the statement. “It is going to be the most serious virus they will get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.”
In addition to getting the vaccine, Beshear and Dr. Stack advise unvaccinated residents to continue wearing masks when indoors not at their homes, and even recommend vaccinated individuals that come into frequent public contact at their jobs also wear masks indoors.
Kentuckians that are at higher risk due to pre-existing conditions should also continue wearing masks when indoors outside of their homes.
“Getting vaccinated is a choice,” said Dr. Stack. “We’ve said that all along. It’s your choice. It’s an incredibly important choice. It’s a choice that should you choose to get vaccinated, you protect yourself and also all the others who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated because the more of us who are vaccinated, the less the virus is able to spread, to infect people and to hurt people. If you choose not to get vaccinated, that is your choice as well, but it is a particularly dangerous choice.”
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