Kentucky has had a high death rate from Covid-19 since vaccines became widely available. A reason: relatively low vaccination rate.

New York Times graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News to highlight the state
Centers for Disease Control graph, adapted by Ky. Health News

Since vaccines for Covid-19 became widely available in April, Kentucky’s death rate from the disease is fourth in the nation, partly due to its relatively low vaccination rate, according toThe New York Times.

The vaccination rate, 54 percent of the state’s population, is 33rd in the nation. That’s for full vaccination, not including booster shots, which research shows are needed for strong protection from the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus that has become dominant in the U.S.

“States with lower vaccination rates tend to have had higher Covid-19 death rates, particularly from the most recent wave of Delta variant infections, which hit the South the hardest,” the Times reports. “This all suggests that the change in who is dying from Covid-19 may be tied to which areas experienced the worst outbreaks of the Delta variant and who in those areas remains unvaccinated. Relaxed precautions in many areas may also play a role.”

The Times found that Covid-19 death rates “fell in most counties across the country, and in about one in five counties, the death rate fell by more than half. But in about one in 10 counties, death rates have more than doubled.”

That was true of some counties in Kentucky, especially in Appalachia, but the rates increased in most counties. Counties in which death rates decreased were Calloway, Carlisle, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Graves, Hancock, Hopkins, Kenton, Logan, Marshall, McLean, Ohio, Oldham, Russell, Todd, Washington and Woodford. The level of increase in many counties is difficult to discern from the Times map, below, and the newspaper does not link to its county-level data from state and local health agencies.

NYT map; Kentucky may seem worse than it is because it has so many counties. Click to enlarge.
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