Health Department officials

Health officials answering COVID-19 questions during a Wednesday YouTube stream are: Director of Health Education Tracy Aaron, Medical Director Dr. Christine Weyman, Executive Director Shawn Crabtree and Environmental Director Stuart Spillman.

The Lake Cumberland District Health Department opened up COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone in the 1C group (people over 60, people over 16 with a qualifying medical condition and all essential workers) for the first time Tuesday, because health officials said they were having trouble filling appointments.

Those available appointments filled up quickly, but more should be available on Monday of next week.

LCDHD Executive Director Shawn Crabtree said it had become difficult to fill all appointments, which up until Tuesday had been available only to those who were 60 years old or older.

He said the health department is still trying to target that age group, because they represent 91% of the people who have died due to the coronavirus, and they made up 75% of the hospitalizations in this area.

“Once we saturate that market, we will have made a tremendous health impact on our path to herd immunity,” Crabtree said. “As we’re moving toward that herd immunity, we want to protect the most vulnerable populations first.”

LCDHD Medical Director Christine Weyman explained that herd immunity meant that around 80 percent of the population needed either to be immunized or have had the disease.

“That means there are not enough susceptible people scattered around that can propagate the virus,” she said.

With the commonwealth of Kentucky’s percentage of those who contracted COVID being around 10% and currently having around 25% of adults immunized, Crabtree said the number currently protected would be roughly 35%, keeping in mind that there was some overlap between the two categories.

Crabtree said that the 10-county district is getting around 6,000 doses of the vaccine per week, in both the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson versions.

The immunizations have had an impact on the number of COVID cases seen in the district, Crabtree said. The peak day – December 30 – saw 301 new cases announced just within that one day.

The current average of new COVID cases in the district is around 20 to 30 per day, he said.

That doesn’t mean the public should become complacent, he said. People should continue to wear face coverings in public and remain socially distanced.

Dr. Weyman said that new guidelines from the CDC allow for people who are fully immune to meet with other fully immune people indoors without masks.

Fully immune people may also meet with one unvaccinated household, and they are not required to quarantine if exposed to the virus.

“However, since we don’t know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t, certainly in public and in businesses, you should wear your masks,” Dr. Weyman said.

Full immunity comes 14 days after the second shot if taking a two-shot vaccine, or 14 days after the Johnson and Johnson shot.

The current vaccine covers all known variations of the virus at this time, but Dr. Weyman warned that if the virus mutates to a point that the current vaccine doesn’t cover it, a yearly vaccination against COVID may be required.

The good news, she said, is that since the infrastructure is now in place for creating COVID vaccines, a new version of the vaccine would not take as long to create.

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