Beshear says focus should be on boosters, to prevent another surge of cases; CDC approves them for 16 and 17-year-olds

Image from WAAY-TV

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
It’s important to get all eligible Kentuckians vaccinated against the coronavirus, but to prevent another surge in cases, the focus needs to be on getting those already fully vaccinated boosted with another dose of vaccine, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

“If we want to prevent another surge, it’s going to be boosters, in my opinion, that stop it, as opposed to new vaccinations, because of the numbers,” Beshear said at a news conference. “If we can get the 61 percent of all Kentuckians that have gotten vaccinated or the 72 percent of all 18-and-up Kentuckians that have been vaccinated boosted, we crank up that immunity [and] there are going to be a lot less people that this virus can infect.”

While 61% of Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine and about a fourth of them have received booster shots, only 53% have been fully vaccinated. Partially vaccinated people are vulnerable to the dominant Delta variant of the virus, and perhaps even more to the looming Omicron variant.

Beshear said Kentuckians need to be proud that so many of us have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine in less than a year, but said that’s still not enough to beat the virus and its variants: “We have to remain unsatisfied and continue to push, to slog, whatever it takes to get more people vaccinated and more people boosted.”

Now, even more Kentuckians are eligible to get a booster after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the Pfizer-BioNTech booster recommendations to include 16- and 17-year-olds.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that Covid-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants.” The CDC’s move quickly followed similar action by the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is really good news,” Beshear said of the FDA approval. “Waning immunity is real. We know we are seeing more breakthrough cases of fully vaccinated individuals the longer it has been since their second shot.”

Almost half of 16- and 17-year-olds have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 42% have been fully vaccinated. Of the 2,736 new cases reported in Kentucky Thursday, nearly 26% are in people 18 and younger.

Daily numbers: The new-case report lowered the seven-day rolling average by 15, to 2,314. It was the second day in a row that the average declined, and likewise for the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days. It dropped to 8.99% after being above 9% since Dec. 2.

The state’s seven-day infection rate is 46.53 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down from 47.46 Wednesday. Counties with rates more than double that rate were Powell and McLean, 104; Owen, 99.6; and Lewis, 95.8.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 21st among the states, down one slot from Wednesday. The Times reports that the state has had a 51% increase in cases in the past 14 days.

Most of the state continues to have either high or substantial transmission rates of the virus, with 109 of the state’s 120 counties in red on the state infection map (more than 25 daily cases per 100,000) and eight of them in the orange (10 to 25). Only three counties are in the yellow zone (1 to 10) which is a moderate transmission rate.

Covid-19 hospital cases rose 2% Thursday, to 1,167. Hospitals reported 314 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, two more than Wednesday, and 185 on mechanical ventilation, an increase of six.

Nine of the state’s 10 hospital-readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with eight of them above 90%. Northern Kentucky reports 100% of its capacity in use and Barren River is at 97.47%.

The state reported 61 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 11,478. The 14-day death average is now 47 per day.

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