Kentucky is now into phase 1-B of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, and that has triggered an overwhelming number of requests from people ages 70 and older who make up a large part of that priority group.
Baptist Health Hardin, based in Elizabethtown, serves 10 counties in central Kentucky. It's one of the healthcare providers that's been flooded with calls requesting a vaccination.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Steve White, assistant vice president of operations at Baptist Health Hardin, who says vaccinations are already scheduled into February.
White: The vaccine availability is really limited, as we all know. Federally speaking, I think the state of Kentucky gets about 1.4 percent of the total country's allocation of vaccines. The state doesn't really understand what allocations they're getting until, you know, periodically throughout the month. So, they don't know what they can tell us at the hospitals, how many we're going to receive. So, because we don't really know what the future holds related to the allocation of vaccines. We don't want to schedule more appointments for vaccinations than we actually have supply. And right now, we are aware of our allocations through the month of January. And the state doesn't yet know what they will be able to allocate to us in the month of February.
Miller: How many vaccinations have you done so far? Do you have a count of that?
White: We've done approximately 2,700. And this past Saturday we started our first round of second doses.
Miller: What's the appointment schedule like now? I heard that people were calling in and couldn't get through on the phone. So, do you have an approximate number of how many appointments are already scheduled?
White: You know, I don't have that number. I can tell you that our first dose allocations from the state, we have scheduled all of those into the future that we are aware of. We're scheduled for January and into February quite heavily.
Miller: Is there a feature where they can text or go online and request an appointment? Or is it all by phone?
White: We are working on some other online mechanisms. We just don't have that product available yet. And when we do open our scheduling back up, right now it will be via phone. So, we're asking that everybody keep a close eye on our website at hmh.net. Because that's what we are updating very frequently to provide our status.
Miller: One thing I've been looking into is who will be vaccinating the homebound elderly? Is there any direction on that from the state?
White: There is no specific direction on that right now. We do consistently work hand-in-hand with Lincoln Trail District Health Department, that likely the state would use them as a conduit for that type of population. So, we would work hand- in-hand with them and support them, in whatever means necessary, to make that happen. And part of the challenge in that is that the vaccine requires such a strict cold chain of custody to keep the vaccine viable, and at the proper temperature. It's really difficult to move it outside of a vaccination center, like we have here at Baptist Health Hardin.
Miller: Anything else you would just like to add?
White: Yeah, you know, we really just want to thank the entire community for the patience that they show us right now. And we do ask that you honor your appointments, and especially as it relates to your second dose appointments, because if you don't come in for that second dose, you're not going to have the protection that the full vaccine would afford you. So honor your appointments and certainly wear your masks, socially distance yourselves, and wash your hands.