Ky. ranks better at full vaccination than partial; reluctance shows some Trump influence; Biden offers paid time off to get shots

Kentucky Health News graph by Bruce Maples shows correlation between votes and vaccination.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky is doing better at getting its people fully vaccinated for the coronavirus than most states, but not as well in overall vaccinations.
Meanwhile, President Biden is offering a new incentive to get a shot: paid time off, not only to get a shot, but to recover in case you have side effects.
And a look through a political lens shows that Kentuckians’ politics indicate their willingness or unwillingness to get vaccinated, but perhaps not as strongly as in some states.
Vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Kentucky ranks 20th among the 50 states in the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated: 28%.
Only people 16 and over are eligible for vaccination, and those 16 and 17 are eligible only for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, so the CDC tracks the percentage of the population 18 and over that is fully vaccinated. In Kentucky, that is 36%, which ranks 18th among the states.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, so the CDC also tracks the percentage of population with at least one dose. In Kentucky, that is 39% of the total population and 49.8% of those 18 and over. Respectively, those numbers rank 30th and 28th among the states.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot, so it has been in more demand, but the U.S. has suspended use of it because one in a million people who have received it (six women of child-bearing age) developed an unusual type of blood clot.
Gov. Andy Beshear has said that hasn’t helped vaccination efforts, and has urged people to get whatever vaccine they can. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department opened vaccinations to walk-ins Wednesday because of decreased demand, citing the lack of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, WKYT reports.
Kentucky administered 32% fewer doses of vaccine in the reporting week that ended Tuesday, and other states are seeing the same problem.
“The broad swath of American adults remain largely unvaccinated,” Biden said today. “Too many younger Americans may think they don’t need to get vaccinated.”
To encourage more vaccinations, Biden announced that the federal government will reimburse employers for time off they give employees to get vaccinated and “to recover if there feeling under the weather after the shot.”
He asked every employer to give employees time off for vaccination and recovery, and said they would be reimbursed through the Internal Revenue Service, under rules in the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act.
He said employer incentives work, citing as an example Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which offered a $100 incentive that helped push the vaccination rate among its the grocery chain’s employees to 75% from 50%.
“Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot, and businesses should know they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line,” Biden said. He said the reasons to get a shot are “to keep you from getting very sick or dying [and] to protect your community, your family, your friends and your neighbors.”
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, has done little to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated though polls show they are among the most resistant to it. In Kentucky, a county-by-county comparison of votes in last November’s presidential election and vaccinations shows a moderate correlation (see graph above; for statisticians, the correlation coefficient is 0.533). A New York Times chart (below), shows that Kentucky is doing better on vaccinations than most states carried by Trump.
New York Times chart, labeled by Kentucky Health News; for a larger version, click on it.
Trump’s reluctance to promote vaccination “has become the source of frustration for former aides, who lament the political benefits that would have come had he done so,” Politico reports. “It has also worried health officials from his own administration, who told Politico about a months-long effort to get him to publicly take the lead; and medical experts, who say a full-throated endorsement could sway vaccine skeptics on the right and get the country closer to herd immunity,” which would provide some protection to people unwilling or unable to be vaccinated.
“Virtually everyone around Trump and in public health circles says his influence on the vaccine campaign could be hugely important,” Politico reports. The aides said Trump could couple a vaccination pitch with a reminder that it was his administration that ran Operation Warp Speed to develop vaccines with new technology in record time.
“The latest example of Trump’s interest in selling the vaccine more than vaccinations came on Fox News Monday night when he began reflecting on why U.S. regulators announced they were pausing the Johnson & Johnson,” Politico notes. “The former president suggested political subterfuge was at play, touted his own record and called the decision ‘so stupid.’ He only encouraged people to get vaccinated when pressed by host Sean Hannity, and did so in the process of explaining why he hasn’t recorded an ad encouraging his skeptical supporters to do so.”

“They all want me to do a commercial because a lot of our people don’t want to take vaccine,” Trump said. “I don’t know what that is exactly, Republican. They want me to do a commercial, some commercial, and they do this pause?”

Trump was vaccinated before he left the White House, but that was not revealed while he was president. “Top health officials and aides only learned about it after Trump left office,” Politico reports. “Word got out following Trump’s speech at CPAC, during which he encouraged people to get the shot in passing, and an adviser confirmed both he and the first lady got the shot in January. No photos or cable-news-ready footage has been released.”

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