Beshear says Ky. data prove vaccines work; asks younger Kentuckians, who make up most new cases, to get vaccinated

Graphic by The Washington Post is updated daily.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
At his only announced pandemic press briefing of the week, Gov. Andy Beshear shared Kentucky data that shows how well coronavirus vaccines work, and again implored younger Kentuckians to go get one.
First, he showed how deaths related to Covid-19 have plummeted since Kentuckians have been able to get vaccinated, falling from a high of 1,672 deaths in December, when the first vaccines became available to some, to only 56 in May, with less than a week left in the month.
In March and April, of the people who tested positive for the virus in Kentucky, 97.5% were not vaccinated; of those who were hospitalized, 94.3% of them were not vaccinated; and of all the Covid-related deaths, 94.4% were not vaccinated, Beshear said.
“These things work,” he said. “Yes, they are not 100% effective, but when you look at these numbers, they are much more than 90% effective. Folks, these vaccines have earned an A, and we all ought to recognize that and take them. Those are incredible numbers that show just how effective the vaccines are.”
So far, 2,006,742 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, which amounts to 45% of the total population or 56% of the adult population.
Beshear said he was proud to see an increase in the number of people who got a first dose of a vaccine last week, up nearly double from the prior week, to 74,553.
He said 23,409 12- to 15-year-olds have received at least one dose of a vaccine since it became available to them, and “You want to keep that up.”
Moderna announced today that its early trials show the vaccine is 100% effective for 12- to 17-year-olds and said it will seek emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand its use in teens. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one approved for that age group.
Beshear said if the Moderna vaccine is approved for this age group, it will help get them vaccinated before school starts in the fall.
The weekly federal pandemic report for Kentucky shows its share of fully vaccinated people has dropped from 27th to 31st among the states in the last three weeks. Asked why, and what the state is doing about it, Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack pointed to lack of second doses.
Stack said coming back for that second shot is “very important” in order to be fully protected and for it to last longer. He added that just because it looks like we are resuming normal activities, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to get that second shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of May 21, 37% of Kentuckians are fully vaccinated. Nationwide, 50% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated. 
Prisons: Beshear announced that the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice will resume in-person visitation the week of June 20. It has been stopped since the pandemic began.
He said visitation will open by appointment to fully vaccinated family and friends of inmates. A state news release says available times will be published on the agencies’ websites June 4. Beshear said 76% of adult inmates have been vaccinated, and vaccines will be offered to new inmates and those who originally declined one.
State Dept. for Public Health graph, relabeled by Ky. Health News; click on it to enlarge.

Daily numbers:
 The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 2.52%. It hasn’t been that low in almost a year.

Beshear announced 580 new cases of the virus, saying it was the lowest Tuesday number in three months. It lowered the seven-day rolling average by nine, to 456 down for the eighth straight day.
He said the highest new-case rate is still among 10 to 19-year-olds, closely followed by those 20-49. “Our incidence rate is much higher among younger Kentuckians than older Kentuckians,” he said. “It’s directly associated with . . . whether you’re vaccinated.”
The state reports that 81% of Kentuckians 65 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine; 61% of people 50-64; 47% of people 40-49; 42% of people 30-39; and 31% of people 18-29.
Kentucky has seen three straight weeks of declining cases and positive-test rates. Beshear called this yet more “real-world proof” of how effective these vaccines are.
The statewide rate of daily new cases over the last seven days is 7.01 per 100,000 residents, down 0.42 from Monday and the lowest since the state began reporting the figure in December. Counties with rates more double the statewide rate are Owen, 27.5; Adair, 23.8; Bath, 22.9; Union, 21.9; Webster, 19.9; Rockcastle, 18; Montgomery, 16.7; Gallatin, 16.1; Bourbon, 15.2; Harlan, 14.8; Carroll, 14.8; Laurel, 14.3; Mason, 14.2; and Whitley, 14.2.
The state reported five more Covid-19 deaths, four from regular health-department reports and one from the ongoing audit of death certificates. The state’s Covid-19 death toll is 6,725.
Kentucky hospitals reported 353 Covid-19 patients; 108 of them in intensive care and 49 of those on a ventilator. All hospital readiness regions are using less than 80% of their intensive-care beds.
Beshear also acknowledged the loss of two people who he said had made an impact on his life, both of them to cancer. One was his Aunt Mary Ann Miller and the other was 9-year-old David Turner Jr., who advocated for childhood cancer research and early in the pandemic asked Kentuckians to wear a mask.
In other pandemic news Tuesday: 
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he won’t get a coronavirus vaccination until he sees that it would be more effective than the natural immunity he says he has from having been infected with the virus more than a year ago. Paul said on WABC Radio in New York, “Until they show me evidence that people who have already had the infection are dying in large numbers, or being hospitalized or getting very sick, I just made my own personal decision that I’m not getting vaccinated because I’ve already had the disease and I have natural immunity.” Fox News notes, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged people who have had Covid to get vaccinated because “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering.” Research says at least eight months, and the degree of immunity appears to increase with the severity of the case. Paul had a mild case.
  • “The daily vaccination rate has sunk below where the United States needs to be to meet President Biden’s July 4 vaccination goals,” Paige Winfield Cunningham reports for The Washington Post. “Yet Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he thinks the targets will still be met. ‘I believe we will attain’ the president’s goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Fauci told my colleague Yasmeen Abutaleb during a Washington Post Live interview.”
  • The source of the virus remains a mystery, “but in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory, has gained new credence. How and why did this happen?” Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post asks and answers.
  • Experts generally believe that the pandemic has killed more people than accounted for in government lists of Covid-19 deaths, but estimates vary. Recently The Economist estimated that the global death toll is 10 million, three times the official counts; now the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that there have been 6.9 million deaths, more than double the official toll. The estimated U.S. difference is smaller, 58% (574,043 official deaths, 905,289 estimated deaths).
  • Why do we get coronavirus shots in the arm? Because the muscles there are good at picking up antigens in the vaccine that stimulate immune responses and are close to the lymph nodes, which have more immune cells that recognize the antigens “and start the immune process of creating antibodies,” Purdue University professor Libby Richards writes for The Conversation. “Muscle tissue also tends to keep vaccine reactions localized. . . . Another consideration during vaccine administration is convenience and patient acceptability. Can you imagine taking down your pants at a mass vaccination clinic? Rolling up your sleeve is way easier and more preferred.”
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