FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky will open vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older starting next Monday in another major expansion of COVID-19 shots, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday.
The accelerated ramp-up comes as appointment slots go unfilled at some vaccine sites, the governor said. It's also meant to be a preemptive move to “get ahead” of coronavirus variants, he said.
As a result, vaccine eligibility will expand to Kentuckians 16 and older for the Pfizer vaccine and 18 and older for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the governor said.
“This is a good day," he said at a news conference. "It means that we will beat the president’s request by a month to have it opened up to everyone.”
The vaccination expansion comes as some states report increased coronavirus-related hospitalizations among younger people, the Democratic governor said.
“What we’re seeing is that the vaccines work and older Americans have gotten it," Beshear said. "We’re seeing more younger Americans ending up in the hospital. We believe it’s because of the more aggressive variants. We want to get ahead of them.”
The governor pointed to four vaccination sites in Kentucky with higher openings for appointments: Norton Healthcare, the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center and Baptist Health Madisonville.
The latest inoculation expansion comes just days after the state opened vaccinations to anyone 40 or older. Beshear had previously said he wanted to open vaccines to all Kentucky adults by April 12.
Kentucky's largest vaccination site is set to open April 12 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. The site has started taking appointments, and the plan is to vaccinate some 4,000 people there per day.
Meanwhile, the state is moving up its plans for vaccinating prisoners in Kentucky’s correctional system, the governor said. The corrections department is scheduled to receive extra amounts of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The plan is for “all interested inmates” to be vaccinated as soon as next week, with a couple of exceptions, Beshear said. The Kentucky State Penitentiary and Western Kentucky Correctional Complex have been dealing with outbreaks, so the vaccine will be given to inmates there “as soon as it is safe to do,” he said.
The governor reported 815 more coronavirus cases statewide Wednesday and 25 more virus-related deaths. Three of the deaths were discovered through the state’s audit of deaths from prior months.
More than 400 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 110 in intensive care units.
Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.