FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2021) – Following meetings of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee, Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), provided updates today on booster shots for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Moderna vaccine series and the Pfizer vaccine series for children ages 5 to 11.
Gov. Beshear also said Kentucky’s COVID-19 data is trending in the right direction as Kentuckians continue to get vaccinated.
“In today’s report, what we see is just about everything is moving in the right direction and actually at a speed – the decrease in cases and in hospitalizations, ventilator use and ICUs – that is significant,” said Gov. Beshear. “It is a real trend, a positive trend. It has not plateaued. It is moving downward, which is reason for optimism. But our deaths, which trail cases and hospitalizations, ICUs and ventilators, remain too high.”
Dr. Stack provided updates about an antiviral drug being tested by Merck and the latest on booster shots. He said the drug, Molnupiravir, is an oral antiviral that could be used to treat COVID-19 patients soon after they test positive and start displaying symptoms.
“The preliminary data that Merck provided showed, in a sample size of a little over 700 people, about a 50% reduction in those who had mild to moderate COVID from progressing to severe COVID,” Dr. Stack said. “This was an early finding in the research, but it was so compelling and statistically reliable that they decided to go forward and ask the FDA to review it for approval. That meeting will happen on Nov. 30, and the treatment could potentially be available after that. This is not a replacement for vaccination.”
If approved, availability will be limited starting in December, he noted.
Dr. Stack also said available data supports the safety and effectiveness for a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completion of the initial series in the following populations:
- Ages 65 and older;
- Ages 18 to 64 at high-risk for severe COVID-19; or
- Ages 18 to 64 with heightened job and institutional COVID-19 exposure risk.
The FDA advisory committee also discussed a vaccine booster for people who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Dr. Stack said available data supports the safety and effectiveness of a Johnson & Johnson booster for people 18 and older at least two months after their initial vaccination.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet Oct. 20-21 to make recommendations regarding booster doses for both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
“Evidence shows that all persons should all be eligible for a booster dose of the J&J two months or more after your initial dose. If you have received J&J, and once the CDC makes its review and the FDA and CDC make their outlines, next week it is anticipated that you are likely to have access to a booster,” Dr. Stack said. “If you received J&J, I would encourage you to go out and get a booster.”
Following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA, on Sept. 27, the Governor recommended Kentuckians who received the Pfizer vaccine series get a booster if they at high-risk of severe COVID-19 or work in high-risk settings.
Dr. Stack also said the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Advisory Committee is set to meet Oct. 26 and the CDC’s ACIP is scheduled to meet Nov. 2-3 to discuss Pfizer vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11. The committees are considering 10 microgram doses for children, which is significantly smaller than the 30 microgram doses used for people 12 and older. Dr. Stack said DPH is working with pharmacies and pediatric providers to ensure they are ready to vaccinate children in this age group quickly if it is approved. Kentucky’s population of those ages 5 to 11 is estimated at 388,896.
COVID-19 Case Information, Vaccinations Update
Number of people who have received at least one vaccine dose in Kentucky: 2,763,745
Oct. 16, Cases: 1,751
Oct. 16, Deaths: 50
Oct. 17, Cases: 827
Oct. 17, Deaths: 22
New Cases Today: 678
New Deaths: 31
Today’s Positivity Rate: 7.36%
Current Hospitalizations: 1,193
Current Intensive Care Admittances: 337
Currently on Ventilators: 219
From March 1 to Oct. 12, 84.9% of COVID-19 cases, 91.4% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 82.8% of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky have been among those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Update on K-12 Schools Testing Program
The Governor said more than 1,140 public, independent and private/parochial schools in 86 counties are participating in the K-12 COVID-19 testing program. He said more than 114,000 tests have been conducted through the program, which resulted in detecting 4,042 positive tests from students and staff.
Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund
On Monday, the Governor said that as of Oct. 15, the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund has paid out more than $68 million to landlords and utility companies to pay for rent and utility bills for 13,335 households. Last week alone, $3.9 million in assistance was paid – the second-highest week since the assistance fund launched in March. The fund has paid $60.7 million in rent assistance and $7.8 million in utility assistance. With the total assistance paid so far, and the $38 million sub-granted to Louisville and Lexington, the fund still has $139 million available to help Kentuckians. Kentuckians seeking relief are urged to go online and apply at teamkentuckyhherf.ky.gov.