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Kentucky officials urge patience as pediatric shots begin

November 4, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky will have ample supplies of COVID-19 vaccine for younger children within weeks, but parents might have to be patient as kid-sized doses start going into arms, the state’s public health commissioner said Thursday.

Health officials have hailed shots for children ages 5 to 11 as a major breakthrough as the country enters a new phase in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said his daughter will get the vaccine soon. The governor and his wife, meanwhile, received their COVID-19 booster shots during his Thursday news conference to showcase the importance of getting the extra dose.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, stressed that the vaccinations are safe for children and that eventually there will be “plenty of vaccine to go around.”

“There will not be all the vaccine on day one,” he said. “But over the first few weeks, it will very clearly escalate and be available very widely. So if you can’t get in on day one or day two, just be patient. You’ll be able to get in in the first few weeks. I’m confident you’ll be able to get vaccinated.”

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Beshear said he looks forward to getting his 11-year-old daughter vaccinated because he and his wife “trust the science.” Their 12-year-old son is fully vaccinated.

As for the availability of the kid-sized dozes in Kentucky, the governor said: “I think we will have enough vaccine in the first week, week and a half for about a third of all kids in the 5-to-11 age group, and enough for everybody within probably three weeks or a month.”

As younger schoolchildren start getting vaccinated, local school districts should resist removing or relaxing mask mandates in schools, the Democratic governor said. School boards need to allow enough time for those children to get fully vaccinated, he said.

“To say we’ve got a vaccine for kids now, so we’re going to drop masks before they can get the immunity that the vaccines would offer would be a mistake,” Beshear said.

“I think we’ve got a good shot at getting to a place with this virus where we won’t need masks in school, hopefully during this school year,” he added. “But we will not get to that place if we rush the decision.”

In September, the state’s Republican-led legislature shifted masking decisions to local school leaders. School boards then voted overwhelmingly to keep masks on students and staffs while at school. It was at a time when COVID-19 cases in Kentucky were surging due to the fast-spreading delta variant. Virus cases have declined since then.

Meanwhile, the governor kept up his plea for Kentuckians to get their COVID-19 booster shots. To reinforce the point, Beshear and his wife, Britainy, received their shots during his media briefing Thursday. The first lady remarked that she barely felt it, and the governor said the COVID-19 shots were only ones in his life he was excited to get.

The booster shots are “incredibly important,” the governor said, in getting people’s “level of immunity back to a place where you’re less likely to get it, you’re less likely to spread it.”

“If we have another (COVID-19) spike, and the severity of what it will be, will depend on how many of our people we have gotten boosted,” he said.

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic