Kentucky officials have announced a draft plan for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as first shipments become available later this year or early 2021.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (KPDH), part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, submitted an initial, comprehensive plan to the CDC last week. Included in the 49-page report are guidelines for vaccine management, tiering for distribution and logistical support.
"The federal government provided a detailed plan for how states should distribute the vaccine, once all safety trials are completed, and the commonwealth’s plan closely mimics their recommendation," Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement. "Protecting the health and lives of our Kentucky families remains our top priority as we battle COVID-19 and as vaccines arrive."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading the federal COVID-19 response, while the U.S. Department of Defense will help distribute and administer the vaccines. Federal officials will review Kentucky’s initial draft plan before it's finalized.
It could take more than a year for all Kentuckians to receive the vaccine, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said. To ensure those who need the vaccine most are taken care of first, a tiered distribution plan will be utilized.
"Supplies of the vaccine will be limited, at first," Stack said. "This is the reason for a phased distribution approach. As supplies of the vaccine rise, all Kentuckians are expected to have access."
Phase 1 of distribution, according to the National Academies Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine, will include high-risk health workers, first responders, people of all ages with underlying conditions that put them at significantly higher risk and older adults living in congregate or overcrowded settings.
Phase 2 will distribute to teachers and school staff, critical workers in high-risk settings, people with underlying conditions that put them at moderately higher risk, people with disabilities and people in congregate settings like jails. Phases 3 and 4 will include young adults, children and those not included in earlier phases.
"The first phase of the plan will help ensure those most at risk – certain health care workers and first responders – have access to the vaccination," Stack said. "The plan will accommodate vaccinating these essential workers in every county across the commonwealth."
Cabinet Secretary Eric Friedlander said that in order for Kentuckians’ lifestyles and economy to return to a pre-pandemic "normal,: citizens must not only protect themselves from COVID-19, but other common illnesses, like influenza.
"Getting immunized against not only COVID-19, but getting and remaining current with all recommended vaccines, is important, Friedlander said. "It protects you, and it protects those around you. Vaccines are the best way we have to prevent infectious disease. A successful immunization program depends on the cooperation of every person."
Multiple candidate vaccines are currently in development. Once one or more are approved for use, they will be allocated to states based on population. Vaccines will be administered at hospitals, local health departments, pharmacies and other healthcare facilities.
During the development process, state officials continue to push social distancing, mask compliance and proper hygiene.