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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Growing numbers of vaccinated Kentuckians have contracted COVID-19 and ended up in hospitals, signaling the importance of getting a booster dose, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.
The unvaccinated still represent the overwhelming majority of new virus-related cases and hospitalizations. But the percentage of vaccinated Kentuckians in those categories has risen, indicating their “waning immunity” over time and the need for the booster shot, Beshear said.
In May, 5% of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky were among fully vaccinated people, he said. By October, that rate had grown to 20% to 25%, reflecting the rise in breakthrough cases.
“I think when you look at this growth, the only natural explanation is that the immunity does lessen a little bit over time,” the governor said at a news conference. “The delta variant is part of it, right? But this means you need to get your booster.”
Meanwhile, 92% of virus-related hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated for a prolonged period, he said. That rate dropped to 84% after including hospitalizations last month.
In Kentucky, 67% of people eligible to receive the vaccine have gotten at least their first dose, the governor said. People 12 and older are currently eligible for a vaccine.
“We need to push this more, but two-thirds of eligible Kentuckians isn’t bad — we just know we have to do better,” Beshear said.
He stressed the effectiveness of the vaccines and said booster shots will provide the level of immunity to significantly reduce virus cases and hospitalizations among the vaccinated.
People ages 65 and older should get a booster, he said. Also eligible are people living in long-term group settings, those with underlying health conditions and those exposed to other people through work, the governor said. It also applies to recipients of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with a booster recommended for them at least two months after the vaccination.
The governor has predicted that booster shots eventually will become widespread.
In a three-day report, he announced 48 more virus-related deaths statewide from Saturday to Monday. Several were among people in their 30s and 40s, plus a person who was 24.
“Remember, the delta variant is killing younger and younger people,” the governor said in calling for higher vaccination rates among people in their 30s and 40s.
The number of COVID-19 cases has dropped for six straight weeks in Kentucky, he said.
The governor also reported continued declines in the number of virus-related hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and ventilator use. The state on Monday reported 772 virus patients hospitalized in Kentucky, including 249 in ICU units and 138 on ventilators.
The rate of Kentucky residents testing positive for the virus was 5.03% Monday, up slightly from the prior day, Beshear said. That ended a prolonged decline in the key indicator in tracking the virus.
Also, the 568 new virus cases reported Monday were up from the same day a week ago, and Beshear called it another statistic that bears watching.
“Our trends are going in the right direction,” the governor said. “We just want to continue to beat COVID and to see it spread less here in the commonwealth.”
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