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On Sunday, the YMCA of Central Kentucky and Wild Health held a pop-up vaccination clinic at the YMCA’s High Street location in downtown Lexington.
The pop-up weekend clinic, in partnership with the state and the University of Kentucky, is one of many ways Fayette County is trying to up the number of people inoculated against COVID-19 four months after the first vaccines started,
“Wild Health is partnering with the YMCA to further increase access to vaccinations in the commonwealth. We’re fully aligned in our common goal and mission to serve our local community and offer them the resources they require to stay safe,” said Dr. Luke Murray, Director of COVID Operations at Wild Health.
According to Centers for Disease Control vaccination data released earlier Monday, 31.9 percent of Fayette County’s population is fully vaccinated.
For those 18 and above only, Fayette County has fully vaccinated 40.1 percent of the population. Those numbers do not include people who have received only one dose of the vaccine.
Still, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that available vaccination appointments are going unused even though those 16 and up are now eligible to receive the vaccine.
Several of Kentucky’s larger vaccination sites have reported having “thousands” of open vaccine slots this month, including the University of Kentucky’s site at Kroger Field. Additionally next week, the Kentucky Horse Park has 1,800 openings; Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium has 11,000 openings; Greenwood Mall in Bowling Green has 2,000; and both the Pikeville Medical Center and Christian County Health Department have 1,000 openings.
To up its vaccination rate, the city is looking at a host of different options, including more drive up and pop up vaccination sites like the one at the YMCA, said Chuck Mix, a logistics expert who is co-chairing the city’s vaccination task force.
The first piloted drive-through vaccination clinic was held Tuesday at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Other drive-through clinics will be piloted in coming weeks, Mix said. Mobile pop-up clinics were successful last year in getting more people tested for COVID-19.
Mix said during Mayor Linda Gorton’s COVID-19 update on Thursday the group is also looking at changing its social media messaging —the Lex Do This! campaign — to reach those who are more hesitant to get the vaccine.
“Our task force is trying to shift our focus a little bit. We are now focusing on harder to reach populations,” Mix said. The numbers show the vast majority of people over the age of 65 have received the vaccine.
“In the next 30 days we are going to be shifting our messaging to a younger population,” Mix said.
Tyler Scott, Gorton’s chief of staff, said the CDC data is not broken down by zip code or neighborhood so it’s difficult for the city to tell where there are pockets of people who have not yet been vaccinated.
“We are pushing to try to get that information and I know the health department is as well,” Scott said.
Mix said they are also looking at doing door-to-door canvasing to help people sign up for a vaccine. Almost all vaccine clinics require preregistration online. Not everyone has Internet access or consistent internet access, which can be a barrier to signing up for a vaccine.
“We are working on a way to sign them up for an appointment right there,” Mix said.
Mix said there is likely federal money coming through the state available for vaccine outreach. They are hoping to tap some of those funds to help with the boots-on-the-ground vaccination outreach.
Lexington-Fayette County Councilman Josh McCurn suggested that they use mailers first to alert people prior to the door-to-door effort. Many people are reluctant to open their doors to strangers, McCurn said.
The availability of the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine may also help increase Fayette County’s vaccination numbers, said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, during Thursday’s meeting.
Hall said several people in their 80s and 90s attended the health department’s Wednesday vaccination clinics. They had waited until the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine was available.
Many people are scared of needles, he said. The one-dose shot is much more palatable for those who are needle averse.
McCurn also suggested a partnership with the Fayette County Public School system to vaccinate those 16 and older before summer break. By bringing a mobile vaccination clinic to high schools, it will make it easier for those teens, and possibly their parents, to get vaccinated, he said.
Gorton said it appears that most providers require a parent or guardian to sign off or be present for those under 18. Still, it may be worth exploring further.
Gorton praised the health department, state, health providers and others for the work that has gone into getting the vaccination rate to a third of Fayette County’s population.
“It’s been a huge effort. We are leading the state. I love that. Our folks always step up,” Gorton said.
For a full list of vaccination sites and how to sign up go to www.lexingtonky.gov/vaccines.