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CDC: More than one-quarter of Lexington residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Lexington Herald-Leader - 4/5/2021

Apr. 5—Fayette County ranks third among Kentucky's 120 counties in percentage of fully vaccinated residents, according to updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state's second-largest county, with Lexington, the second-largest city, has 27.6 percent of its population fully vaccinated, making it one of only six Kentucky counties that vaccinated at least one-quarter of the local population as of Monday. The two counties ahead of Fayette are Woodford (28.5 percent) and Pike (27.6 percent), according to the CDC.

For those 18 and above only, Fayette County has fully vaccinated 33.1 percent of the population, the fourth-best in the state behind Woodford (35.2 percent), Pike (34.2 percent) and Perry (33.6 percent).

"It's a great start, but we are not there yet," Fayette health department spokesman Kevin Hall said about achieving herd immunity. "We are not anywhere close to being there yet."

The numbers include those who have received both doses of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as well as recipients of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Herd immunity is achieved by reaching a rate of immunized people high enough to keep the virus from spreading any further, according to Johns Hopkins University. Immunity can be achieved either through vaccination or by developing antibodies after recovering from the virus.

Herd immunity provides indirect protection for people who aren't immune because the virus is no longer spreading through the population, according to Johns Hopkins University.

It's difficult to calculate what percentage of residents need to be fully vaccinated to reach COVID herd immunity, according to national and international health experts. Herd immunity could be reached if 60 to 70 percent of U.S. residents had immunity. according to early projections. But some have discussed altering that percentage as new coronavirus variants and studies occurred.

"It's an elusive terminology because we don't know exactly with this particular virus what herd immunity would mean," Fauci told NPR last week.

How other KY counties rank in COVID vaccinations

Other Kentucky counties with the highest percentages of fully vaccinated residents were Perry, Hancock, Letcher, Franklin, Nicholas, Floyd and Lyon, where the percentages ranged from 23.4 to 26.7.

Nine of the top 10 counties were also highest in the percentage of residents 18 and above who are fully vaccinated. Nicholas, Hancock, Letcher, Floyd and Franklin had 30.8 percent to 32.1 percent of that age range vaccinated. Daviess rounded out the top 10 with 27.8 percent.

Counties with the lowest percentages of fully vaccinated residents — ranging from 12.7 to 8.6 percent — were Spencer, Christian, Casey, Wayne, Lewis, Elliott, Ballard, McCreary, Hart and Todd.

If only fully vaccinated residents 18 and older are considered, eight of those counties remained at the bottom in the ranking with percentages ranging from 10.3 percent to 14.9. Lee and Adair dropped to the bottom 10 with 15.5 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively, of residents 18 and over vaccinated.

A complete listing can be found on

Lexington's vaccine access increasing, barriers still remain

Fayette County was able to get 27 percent of residents vaccinated because vaccines are relatively easy to access in Lexington, according to the local health department.

"It's been easier for our demographics, our population, to get the shot" thanks to multiple major hospitals, including the large University of Kentucky operation at Kroger field; a mass vaccination clinic run by the state at the Horse Park; and a health department that runs vaccination clinics weekly, Hall said.

Fayette County has the largest percentage of residents under 65 in the state, Hall said. Residents who weren't in previous priority groups have recently been able to get a vaccine appointment more easily because of the number of clinics in the area, he said. As of Monday, those 16 and over can get vaccinated statewide.

As vaccinations become more widely available, a jump in vaccinations won't be immediate.

"Some people likely aren't aware of all the options, and there are still barriers we need to overcome, like getting into neighborhoods to reach people who can't get to large clinics," Hall said.

Politics may be a factor for some Lexington or Kentucky residents.

Because it wasn't getting vaccination appointments filled quickly, the Lexington health department in recent weeks had to expand eligibility for its vaccine to all adults in Lexington, doing so earlier than the state had asked. Other sites also have promoted available slots.

More health department appointments remained available for this week's clinic scheduled for Wednesday this week at Consolidated Baptist Church. The clinic is appointment-only, and residents can register online at Residents can also call (859) 899-2222 for assistance with registering for an appointment.

Fayette County was the only Kentucky county to make the top 10 of vaccine distribution and also fall below the state average in percentage of residents 65 and older in the population.

About 64.1 percent of Fayette County's 65 and older population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Fayette ranks fourth among counties for that age group. Nicholas, Hancock and Franklin Counties had vaccinated a higher percentage of their 65 and up residents.

Fayette County's numbers were ahead of much of the state, but it didn't stack up as well compared to some of the higher-achieving counties across the United States. Nearly 49 percent of all residents in Hamilton County, New York, had been vaccinated as of Sunday, according to the CDC.

Various other counties had already surpassed 40 percent. Sumter County in Florida was at 46 percent and Nelson County in North Dakota was at 45 percent, as was Glacier County in Montana. Blaine County in Montana had reached 44 percent and Apache County in Arizona was at 41 percent.

Lexington COVID-19 cases hit lowest point since last summer

Fayette County had a consistent drop in new COVID-19 cases for more than two months. From Jan. 10 to March 20, cases went from near-record levels to the lowest they've been since last summer. Cases numbers have been stagnant in recent weeks, but the county has reported fewer than 40 new cases per day on average.

The reduction in cases isn't solely attributable to a drop in testing. If cases were still spreading at a higher rate, hospitalizations and deaths likely would increase. Lexington reported one new hospitalization Monday. The city reported 17 new hospitalizations over the past week, the fewest since last summer.

The drop in cases lowered Fayette County's "incidence rate" to its lowest point yet over the weekend. The incidence rate is a method used by the state Department for Public Health to measure COVID-19 spread in each Kentucky county. The spread is classified by four color-coded zones: green, yellow, orange and red with red the worst.

Fayette County, over the weekend, dropped into the yellow zone for only the second time since the state started measuring the incidence rate in September. Fayette County was in the orange zone when the state began measuring. The county's level of spread more than tripled the threshold for red zone status at one point before cases began to decline consistently.

Even with the significant drop-off in COVID-19 spread, the CDC has classified Fayette County's COVID-19 community transmission level as "substantial." That's the agency's second-highest classification for spread.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported 15 new coronavirus cases Monday, which dropped the city's rolling seven-day average of new cases down to 29.1.


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