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Beshear Casts Doubt On CDC Plans To Distribute Vaccine Ahead Of Election

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gives a media briefing at the State Capitol Building on July 14, 2020.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gives a media briefing at the State Capitol Building on July 14, 2020.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told residents Thursday they should not anticipate a COVID-19 vaccine until early next year despite an announcement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has informed public health officials across the country, including those in Louisville, to make plans to distribute a vaccine to high priority groups ahead of the U.S. election on November 3rd.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack and Beshear threw cold water on the announcement Thursday, saying they will not put Kentuckians in jeopardy by rushing out a vaccine that has not undergone rigorous testing.

There are no shortcuts, Stack said. Any vaccine that Kentucky makes available will undergo sufficient testing to ensure that it’s not going to harm the person who receives it.

“There are some really good and incredible things that have been done to accelerate the progression for how quickly we can get a vaccine, but there are some corners that cannot be cut,” Stack said.

The Trump administration established Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Already, there are at least three potential vaccines currently undergoing Phase 3 trials in the U.S., according to NPR.

Despite contradicting federal plans, Beshear said it’s not a criticism of the Trump administration. He said the speed with which U.S. companies have developed vaccines is a credit to the administration, but he also said it’s important the public have confidence in a vaccine’s effectiveness.

“You can lose the public’s confidence if you ask them to take a vaccine that then doesn’t help, then you ask them to take another one,” Beshear said.

One of the country’s top infections disease experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said the U.S. could have a vaccine ready for distribution as early as next year.

In the meantime, Kentuckians continue to experience an elevated risk for contracting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Beshear announced 906 new cases Thursday — the third highest daily total since testing began — bringing the state's total cases to 50,885.

Thursday’s positive cases included 124 children under the age of 18, Beshear said.

Ninety-five out of 120 counties in Kentucky reported at least one new case of the virus, demonstrating the breadth with which the virus has seeped into Kentucky’s hills, hollers, cities and towns.

Thursday’s numbers also included 10 new deaths. Beshear warned that before the week is over, it will likely be the state's highest yet for loss of life due to the virus.

For all of those reasons, the state’s chief public health advisor joined other public officials in asking residents to carefully consider their plans for the Kentucky Derby and Labor Day weekend.

“This is exactly when people take their eye off the ball. This is when we get together for parties in our backyards. Family from out of town comes together. People have a glass of wine or a glass of bourbon or a mint julep and they forget about the key things that we have to do in a global pandemic,” Stack said.

Stack asked residents to watch their distances, wear a mask and wash their hands so that people can enjoy each other’s company and stay safe. The governor’s orders still limit in-person gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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