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Mayor Fischer Among First To Receive Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine In Louisville

Mary Meehan

Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville’s Chief Health Strategist Dr. Sarah Moyer were among the first people in the city to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine Wednesday.

The first shipment of Moderna’s vaccine arrived Wednesday morning. Out of the initial shipment of 3,000 doses, more than 20 were administered during a press conference at Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

It’s the second vaccine to be distributed to the city, joining last week’s Pfizer shipment. Fischer said he was “elated” to have another vaccine available.

“To have something where we can go on the offense is great, because we've been playing defense now for over nine months,” he said.

Moyer, Louisville’s top health official, said she was excited, “almost to the point of tears,” prior to receiving her injection. Wednesday marked the 286th day her staff has been battling the pandemic, she said.

“But really, it's almost a year for us, because we started tracking data and monitoring the situation out of China last December,” Moyer said. “But we've not only been battling the pandemic, we've been battling for the community. We've worked hard to find innovative solutions to ensure that our clients get the services that they need to stay healthy and safe.”

Several frontline health care workers, first responders and essential city employees also received the vaccine. They included 13 EMTs, four physicians and three other health care providers.

Interim Medical Director Dr. Sarahbeth Hartlage said the initial doses of the Moderna vaccine will be for “tier 1a” individuals, including health care workers like those vaccinated Wednesday. Those who don’t work at the three Louisville hospitals that received Pfizer’s vaccine – University of Louisville Hospital, Norton Hospital and Baptist Health – will be prioritized. The health department is partnering with UofL to help vaccinate about 250 EMTs by the end of the year.

Hartlage said a drive-thru vaccination site at the Kentucky Expo Center could have a “slow launch” in early January as more doses become available.

“We're going to take our time to make sure our processes are really robust and ready,” she said. “But we anticipate running at least 1,000 people through the site the first week. Then when we're at full capacity, we should be running 1,000 people through the site every day.”

But until more people have access to the vaccine, the coronavirus remains a threat.

Moyer stressed the importance of engaging in safe practices during holiday celebrations in the coming days.

The safest way to celebrate is to stay home, Moyer said. Those who plan to be around people outside of their immediate family should get tested and quarantine before any gatherings. An additional quarantine of one to two weeks is recommended for those who travel outside of the state.

“Be especially careful with Indiana and Tennessee,” Moyer said. “Those are two of the top [states] for COVID spread right now. We are surrounded by a lot of coronavirus, so please stay safe at home and have a very merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.”

There were 2,715 new COVID-19 cases in Louisville last week. Nearly 20% of all patients in the hospital have COVID-19.

John is News Editor for LPM. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.