Doctors stress vaccinations as COVID-19 variant makes its way to Kentucky

Doctors stress vaccinations as COVID-19 variant makes its way to Kentucky
Louisville’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been a tale of supply vs. demand. Since Kentucky moved into Phase 1B, the city has experienced a shortage of doses compared to the number of people who’ve signed up to receive them.
Louisville’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been a tale of supply vs. demand. Since Kentucky moved into Phase 1B, the city has experienced a shortage of doses compared to the number of people who’ve signed up to receive them. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state has the systems in place to distribute 250,000 vaccines per week, but without the supply, it is just not possible.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state has the systems in place to distribute 250,000 vaccines per week, but without the supply, it is just not possible. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Carolyn VonderHaar’s Wednesday started like dozens of others.

She was in her car, sleeve rolled up, at the UofL Health’s drive-up vaccination site at Brook and Liberty streets.

A three-second stick and ten minutes of rest is all she needed to breathe a long sigh of relief.

“I feel like I’m going to be safe, much safer,” VonderHaar said.

VonderHaar, in her 70s, said she came to get vaccinated because she wants a little normalcy back in her life.

So does Nancy Davidson, who also rolled up her sleeve to receive the vaccine.

“We’re hearing that there are more strands out there now, so I sort of wanted to be on the safe side,” Davidson said.

Louisville’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been a tale of supply vs. demand. Since Kentucky moved into Phase 1B, the city has experienced a shortage of doses compared to the number of people who’ve signed up to receive them.

Though rollout has moved more slowly than expected, doctors like Mark Burns told WAVE 3 News vaccinations are more important than ever, because the state confirmed two cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant on Tuesday.

“By vaccinating people, that will keep the virus from spreading and keep it from replicating,” Burns said. “If it doesn’t replicate, it can’t mutate.”

Burns told WAVE 3 News there are currently three variants of the virus - the U.K. variant, the South African variant and the Brazilian variant. He said the research into these new variants is still in the preliminary phases. Doctors are still trying to understand if they’re more contagious, more deadly, or resist the vaccines currently on the market.

“We’re learning stuff every day,” Burns said. “Things are changing on a daily basis, so I would just say we just have to watch and see how it plays out.”

He said Dr. Anthony Fauci has alluded to a possible “cushion effect,” where the variants decrease the effectiveness of the vaccines slightly, because of the small differences in their genetic code from the original strain.

“It may drop down to maybe like 85, 75 percent effective, as opposed to the 90 percent originally effective,” Burns said. “So it’s still effective. It may not be as effective against these mutant types as it was against the original wild type, but the key is, so far they are still effective.”

Burns said as CDC guidance changes, treatment and testing also may change.

As of Wednesday, Burns said UofL Health has the capability to test for the variants, but was unsure of how much it’s being done.

On Monday, Baptist Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chuck Anderson told WAVE 3 News that testing for variants was still being done at random in their healthcare system.

“So I know we’re not testing for every one of them, but we’re doing random sampling as I heard about mid or early last week,” Anderson said.

There is still much to be learned, but Burns said the medical community is falling back on vaccinations, encouraging as many people to receive them when possible.

VonderHaar said she’d rather be safe than sick.

“There’s no reason not to get it,” VonderHaar said.

UofL Health’s Director of Pharmacy Services told WAVE 3 News on Tuesday the state of Kentucky receives 53,700 doses weekly that must be distributed to roughly 33 vaccination centers statewide.

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