The problem with COVID-19 vaccine distribution right now isn’t the how of the state plan, judge-executives from across the Purchase Area agreed Wednesday — it’s mostly the how many.
“We’re only being allotted so much from the state supply on the weekly basis and we have more demand than supply,” said Ballard County Judge-Executive Todd Cooper. “The plan is good.”
Around 100 total doses have been administered to Carlisle County residents. Local Judge-Executive Greg Terry, like Cooper, is mostly displeased with the low figure.
“We just want to give them out as fast as we can once we receive them. I’m not real happy with (how) fast they’ve come here, but I understand,” he said.
Terry’s frustration comes from the mounting numbers in Carlisle, which have been growing quicker as the pandemic goes on. The county had less than 100 total cases through late October. Since then the local case count has climbed to 495 — the highest count across the Purchase District Health Department’s counties with the exception of McCracken County (4,815).
“It’s really running rampant around here. When I look at the numbers for the four river counties and I’m leading the pack and I’m one of the less populated of the four — that bothers me,” the county official said. “That’s something you don’t want to be number one in.”
Fulton Judge-Executive Jim Martin is displeased with the vaccine allotment his county has received to date.
“So far we’ve only gotten 100 shots for the whole county and those shots have been given. So now we’re waiting on the second shots for those 100 and whatever other shots we’re going to get beyond that,” he said. “In Obion County, just across the street (in Tennessee), they’ve given thousands of shots. In our county, we’ve given 100.”
Case totals in Ballard (486), Fulton (378) and Hickman (356) are also climbing.
Hickman Judge-Executive Kenny Wilson told The Sun around 20 people a day are being vaccinated in his county and that just isn’t enough.
“There’s great demand in my county for the vaccine. We would like more of it where we can give it to our citizens,” he said. “We’re doing an excellent job getting it out to our citizens. We just need more of it.”
Each of the judge-executives is happy with Purchase District Health Department Director Kent Koster and his department’s work throughout the pandemic and acknowledged the level of difficulty he’s facing.
“He’s right now, I’d say, in a no-win situation. He’s at the mercy of the state sending him the vaccine and he’s trying to distribute it equally out to (the five PDHD counties),” Wilson said. “He’s doing the best he can and I’m sure he’s trying to get all of the vaccine he can for all us.”
Cooper said he would give him an “A” for his work.
Terry added: “Kent’s doing a great job. Nobody’s ever been through a pandemic like this.”
An unofficial Zoom call between the judge-executives and PDHD officials Tuesday detailed the state’s vaccination rollout plan. This included a discussion regarding the opening of regional mass vaccination sites. The judge-executives under the purview of the PDHD are all in favor of individual county vaccination sites instead of a sole regional mass vaccination site, a plan being put in place by the state.
Officials from the four river counties — Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman — hope to present a plan to that effect to Koster within the next week.
“Most of our population here, if we don’t get it to them in the county they’re going to be the absolute last people to get it,” Martin said. “We need to roll this out in each of these counties and we have the resources available in this county to give the vaccination to everybody in the county, we just need the vaccines directed to us.”
“We’re going to have to have multiple sites,” he said. “The more areas and the more opportunities that you have to meet the demand, the better it is for everyone.”
While McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer hasn’t been a part of the discussions among the river county judge-executives, he shares their belief that a single mass vaccination site isn’t the best solution.
With 25% of Hickman County’s population being senior citizens, Wilson said a regional vaccination center is a tough sell.
“I don’t think a regional spot to give the vaccinations will work for the citizens of Hickman County,” he said. “(Those residents) would have a hard time getting to Paducah or Murray and standing in a line.
“In the larger cities, I’m sure it would work better but we’re a very rural county.”
Terry said he thinks smaller vaccination centers in the counties should be started before and in addition to a mass vaccination center for the region.
“I think they need to let us set them up in our small communities and then after some time you set up a mass vaccination center for those people that are straggling,” the Carlisle official said. “Let’s get into those communities and get those people that are really wanting it out of the way — then let’s set those up.”