FRANKFORT, KY — Kentucky officials expect the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered from the U.S. Department of Health and the Department of Defense to the commonwealth late this year or early next year.

However, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack says supplies will be limited at first, and that distributing the vaccine to as many as 4.4 million Kentuckians is expected to take at least a year to complete.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services released a draft of its plan to distribute the vaccine Friday. The cabinet said in a news release that its plan, which has been filed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a phased approach. Stack said the expectation of an initially limited supply is the reason for that phased approach.

"The first phase of the plan will help ensure those most at risk — certain health care workers and first responders — have access to the vaccination," Stack said in a statement. "The plan will accommodate vaccinating these essential workers in every county across the commonwealth."

"As supplies of the vaccine rise, all Kentuckians are expected to have access," he added. 

The draft of the plan says the second phase will focus on making sure members of critical populations included in the first phase who are not yet vaccinated have access to the vaccine, extend efforts to reach the general public, and expand the network of vaccine providers. The third phase will focus on equitably distributing the vaccine across the entire state population. 

Gov. Andy Beshear also released a statement about the plan, saying it is aligned with the federal government's plan. 

"The federal government provided a detailed plan for how states should distribute the vaccine, once all safety trials are completed, and the commonwealth’s plan closely mimics their recommendation," Beshear said. "Protecting the health and lives of our Kentucky families remains our top priority as we battle COVID-19 and as vaccines arrive."

Cabinet for Health and Safety Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said the vaccine is "imperative" to fully reopening the state's economy and returning to a pre-pandemic normal, including "traditional classroom education, full-capacity business operations, social activities, and more."

"Getting immunized against not only COVID-19, but getting and remaining current with all recommended vaccines, is important," Friedlander said in a statement. "It protects you, and it protects those around you. Vaccines are the best way we have to prevent infectious disease. A successful immunization program depends on the cooperation of every person."

Federal officials will review Kentucky's draft plan, and provide any necessary feedback. The cabinet asks Kentuckians to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and wash their hands well and frequently. Beshear reported 1,295 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, as well as 12 new virus-related deaths and record numbers of hospitalizations

Download the document below to read the Draft Kentucky Vaccination Plan in full. 

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