Michael Adams vaccination

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams receives a COVID-19 vaccination on Monday. 

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky hopes to begin the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations targeting emergency responders, educators and people 70 and older at the start of February, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

More than 26,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Kentucky, and 40 additional sites will receive doses for the first time this week, the governor said. Health care workers along with residents and staff at long-term care facilities are at the top of the list for receiving vaccinations.

Vaccinations for the next designated groups of Kentuckians — those 70 and older, school personnel and first responders such as police and firefighters — are targeted to begin around Feb. 1, though it could be “plus or minus a week,” Beshear said.

The state expects it will take most of February to vaccinate those groups, he said.

People 70 and older represent about 11% of Kentucky’s population but account for three-fourths of the state’s virus-related deaths, said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner.

“This is clearly the population at greatest risk," he said.

Beshear urged patience as vaccine supplies are allocated to Kentucky. The state is scheduled to receive more than 200,000 doses by the end of December.

“Right now, the vaccine is trickling in,” he said at a news conference. “I love having 200,000 doses, but it's not enough. But as production ramps up, as more vaccines come online, we're going to have a lot more coming in. And as we move into the next priority phase, and eventually the one after that about who gets the vaccine, it's going to be bigger and bigger populations."

Some leftover doses, however, were reportedly administered recently to people who don't yet qualify for the vaccines by a couple of pharmacies in Louisville and Lexington, media outlets reported. Some doses were thawed too early and set to expire.

Those vaccinations shouldn't have occurred, the governor told reporters Monday.

“If more of the Pfizer vaccine was thawed than they thought could be immediately used, what needs to happen is the next long-term care facility, the one that that vaccine is supposed to be saved for, needs to be contacted and they need to do what it takes to get it out to that facility in time,” Beshear said.

The governor added that “in an undertaking this massive, mistakes are going to happen."

Meanwhile, Beshear said the state has curbed the most recent surge of coronavirus cases.

The governor reported 1,455 new statewide virus cases Monday and eight more virus-related deaths. He noted that some labs have been closed due to the holiday, but said Kentucky's case numbers have been declining in recent weeks.

“We have certainly stopped the exponential growth; this third wave," Beshear said. “And I believe that now we’ve not only plateaued it but we’re starting to see cases decrease.”

“It’s certain to say that the steps we took — that temporary closure of indoor dining and bars, the restrictions on gatherings to make them very small ... made a real difference,” he added.

Kentucky has reported more than 258,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,563 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

More than 1,500 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 411 in intensive-care units, Beshear said. The statewide rate for positive tests was 7.97%.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.

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