As Pike County has made progress with vaccinations and increased its eligibility at a local level, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on March 31 that vaccine eligibility will expand statewide starting April 5.

Pike County Public Health Director Tammy Riley said that the local and regional vaccination sites in the county are currently vaccinating anyone who qualifies for Phase 1 through Phase 3. That means that everyone 16 or older is eligible for a vaccine in the county.

“Most providers have availability or are providing open drive-throughs or open walk-in clinic hours for the vaccine,” Riley said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently provided data showing that Pike County, Perry County and Floyd County were among the top counties in the state for rates of fully-vaccinated people. Riley said that nearly 34 percent of the county’s population has now been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Although the county has made good progress, Riley said that it is not enough, and she said that more people have to get vaccinated in order to have safe herd immunity from the virus. According to the CDC, 70-80 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated to make a difference with the pandemic.

“There still needs to be growth in that number,” Riley said. “We need to see more individuals show for vaccines to get to that safe herd immunity that we need for our community. We have made good progress, but there’s still more work that needs to be done.”

Riley encouraged the public to get vaccinated, reaffirming that the vaccines are safe to use, they are effective and that the potential side effects of the vaccines are minimal compared to the side effects that come from the virus itself.

“The side effects of the vaccine are minimal in comparison to the dramatic and much more life-threatening consequences of actually having COVID-19,” Riley said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95 percent effective when both doses are administered, and the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective when both doses are administered. The CDC states that both doses are necessary for protection against the virus. The Janssen/Johnson&Johnson vaccine is a single-dose vaccine and 85 percent effective.

According to the CDC, people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may feel some side effects, including pain or swelling in their arm around the site where the vaccine was injected or side effects like fever, chills, tiredness or headache. These side effects are mild-to-moderate and usually more intense after the second dose as the body is preparing to fight off the virus. However, the CDC states that these potential side effects are temporary, if they occur at all.

“The side effects from COVID-19 vaccination may feel like flu and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days,” according to the CDC. “With most COVID-19 vaccines, you will need two shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.”

Statewide, all Kentuckians 50 years old or older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as frontline essential workers, healthcare workers, first responders, K-12 school personnel and Kentuckians 16 years old or older who are considered high-risk (as classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Starting April 5, all Kentuckians 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine across the state. Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16 and 17-year-olds. According to state officials, more than 1.3 million Kentuckians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 1.6 million first doses have been allocated to the state.

Beshear said Kentucky will surpass President Joe Biden’s vaccination goal by nearly a month. Biden’s goal is for every American adult to be eligible to sign up for a vaccine by May 1.

“This is a good day. This news means that we will beat the president’s goal by a month to have COVID-19 vaccinations opened up to everyone,” Beshear said. “We are seeing in a number of states an increase in cases and hospitalizations, and it’s happening among younger people. We want to get ahead of the more aggressive COVID-19 variants and make sure that we fill every available appointment. Make a plan to get your shot of hope.”

As of presstime April 1, Pike County’s total number of cases was 5,484 cases, with 196 of those being active cases. 5,205 people have recovered, and 83 Pike County residents have died from the virus so far. Riley noted that there has been an increase of confirmed COVID-related deaths in Pike County over the past few weeks.

She said that the Pike County Health Department has seen a plateau in the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 being reported during the months of March and April. For the seven-day raw average, Riley said, Pike County saw a rate of 5.6 new cases being reported per day, and the county’s daily incident rate would be 9.6 cases per 100,000 population, which is slightly lower than the state’s overall daily incident rate.

Riley said this is a “huge improvement” as compared to where the county was in the month of January, when the county’s number of newly reported cases hit its peak.

“If you look at the week-by-week, what we’re seeing is that we have pretty much plateaued around 35 to 43 cases per week since the beginning of March,” Riley said.

People in Pike County can also receive a vaccination at the Pike County Health Department’s walk-in clinic, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays. The Pike County Health Department can be reached at, (606) 437-5500, and is located at 119 River Drive. For more information, visit, www.pikecountyhealth.com.

There are independent pharmacies, as well as Walmart and Walgreens locations, across Pike County that are COVID-19 vaccination sites. Contact each individual pharmacy for appointment information:

• Care More Pharmacy - 151 Dorton-Jenkins Highway, Dorton, KY 41520

• Citizens Drugs - 13380 Phelps 632 Road, Phelps, KY 41553

• Economy Drug Company Inc. - 180 Town Mountain Road, Suite 115, Pikeville, KY 41501

• Elkhorn Drug - 105 East Elkhorn Street, Elkhorn City, KY 41522

• Kimper Pharmacy - 9711 State Highway 194 East, Kimper, KY 41539

• Nova Pharmacy - 1330 South Mayo Trail, Suite 102, Pikeville, KY 41501

• Walgreens - 11349 State Highway 1056, McCarr, KY.

• Walmart - 254 Cassidy Boulevard, Pikeville, KY.

• Walmart - 28402 US-119, South Williamson, KY.

Kentuckians who live in the counties of Pike, Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin can also call Eastern Kentucky’s new regional call center in order to receive help with registering with a local healthcare provider for a vaccination. The center is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it is meant to help those who do not have available access to a computer or the Internet. There are four phone numbers that can be used to contact the call center: (606) 437-3862, (606) 437-3863, (606) 437-3865, and (606) 437-3866.