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'It's Not Just Putting A Shot In Your Arm.' Lexington Vaccinators Use Extra Time To Connect

Josh James

As demand for COVID-19 vaccines eases in Kentucky, the lack of lines is giving health care workers and others administering the shot more time to speak one-on-one with those who are showing up.

It's Thursday around 2 p.m. at a Lexington Senior Center vaccine clinic, and takers are trickling in. It's between the rushes that typically happen at the beginning and end of clinics. Some of the those getting their shot prefer not to be identified by the media.

But there is one high profile visitor, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, here to tour the facility and encourage everyone to keep their eye on the ball.

"With the weather getting nicer and us getting a little antsy, we've still got to follow through with this," she says.

Fayette Health Department spokesperson Kevin Hall introduces a firefighter who went the extra mile with a person with special needs who had anxiety about the process.

"The firefighter spent 45 minutes talking to them about music. 'What's your favorite song? What movies have you seen recently?' All in an effort to make them feel calm and to make them understand that it's not just putting a shot in your arm and getting you out," Hall says.

Even then the person left without getting the shot, but the message was more important — that health care workers treat each person as an individual, not a number. It's an approach the health department hopes will, in the long run, ease the fears of the hesitant and convince the 16 percent or so of Lexingtonians needed to reach the current goal of 70 percent vaccinated.

It's a stark contrast to the flood of people who scrambled for appointments just months ago.

At that point, all attention was on vaccine supply — with residents searching out open spots even cities away — but concerns have since shifted to the demand side of the equation.

This week, the University of Kentucky announced plans to break down the mass vaccination site at Kroger Field and farm the job out to smaller sites. WLEX-TV reported appointments are down to a fourth of what they once were at the height of the vaccine rollout.

Meanwhile, Louisville is beginning to see smaller clinics canceled due to lack of interest.

It's a concerning but not unexpected problem that the state hopes to counter by adjusting its messaging and outreach, making the shot more convenient to get, and waiting for more time to pass as hesitant Kentuckians watch more and more family and friends get vaccinated.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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