Owensboro Health has opened COVID-19 vaccination appointments for anyone ages 16 and older.

Michael Kelley, vice president of medical affairs, said it feels great to be at this point in the vaccination process.

“We were able to move through the tiers pretty quickly,” he said. “It feels great to kind of be open to everybody and not have to turn people away.”

Since expanding on those eligible to receive vaccinations, Kelley said there has definitely been an increase in vaccine appointments, but not nearly as many as the healthcare system saw when vaccines were offered to those considered high risk.

While there is a slight uptick in appointments recently, overall, Kelley said demand has begun to drop. He said not only have there been 67,000 doses administered by OH alone, but there are more facilities administering the vaccine in the region.

“We’re getting to the point where we have more supply than we do demand and some of that is because there are other dots on the map that are vaccinating,” he said. “Definitely the demand has gone down ... but I think that’s because we’ve been so aggressive … and all these other sites have opened, so I feel like it’s sort of the natural course.”

It remains to be seen, he said, how the younger demographics will take to getting the vaccine, but he hopes being able to return to some sense of normalcy might motivate some to get it.

“It feels good to be open to everybody and I want those people to come in and get vaccinated. It’s a little hard to tell when you get to the younger age, how much interest there is — how much vaccine hesitancy there is in those younger age groups,” he said.

Kelley said he has already seen families that are fully vaccinated excited to plan family trips or finally get the opportunity to visit loved ones a year into the pandemic.

Studies are currently being done, he said, about the possibility of vaccinating children below the age of 16, as well.

Those under the age of 16 account for about 20% of the population, he said, and with only about 40% of the general population having received the vaccine so far, the public is not quite at a point where it will be able to achieve herd immunity, but it is moving in that direction.

“I think the more likely scenario is that we end up having a sort of endemic state where you still have cases of COVID that are occurring — it’s not completely wiped out — and then we end up needing boosters or some sort of version of the shot every year, kind of like the flu, and there will be cases that continue to go on and it’ll be part of us for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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