Gov. Beshear speaks at Cardinal Stadium vaccine site

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at the state's largest regional vaccination site at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky., on April 12, 2021. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's governor says the idea that he is trying to blackmail people into getting a COVID-19 vaccine — is "crazy."

Gov. Andy Beshear said his goal is to reach herd immunity among residents as soon as possible.

Beshear said earlier this week that he will ease restrictions on large gatherings when 2.5 million Kentuckians have received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

In an interview with WDRB News on Thursday, Beshear said his intent is to give people a goal to work toward.

"If we get to that level, we believe that there is a pretty good protection that will help all of us," he said. "And that if we continue in large groups or indoors to wear masks until we get to that herd immunity, at that point, we can do a whole lot more."

But Beshear's announcement, and handling of the coronavirus pandemic, was met with some pushback.

Wednesday morning, about 200 people gathered outside the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort in protest of his plan. They called Beshear's COVID mandates "tyrannical" and said his vaccination challenge amounts to extortion. But the governor brushed off the criticism.

"I mean, the concept that it's extortion to want to end a pandemic that's killed 6,200 people is crazy," he said Thursday. "Liberty doesn't mean selfishness. It doesn't mean that you can do whatever you want even if it hurts or takes the lives of other people."

The governor doesn't believe the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will affect the immunization program. He said there is enough supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to reach his 2.5 million goal in the next month. But, he said, it depends on Kentuckians showing up.

A recent survey conducted from February to March by the University of Cincinnati asked Kentuckians how they felt about getting vaccinated. Of the 800 residents who took the survey, 71% say they have already gotten the vaccine, or plan to. 

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky broke down the results of the survey, and said those who are hesitant to get the shot will be key to reaching herd immunity. The Foundation said the results show a promising future for the state in reaching herd immunity when the doses are available. They classify herd immunity as 70-85% of the population vaccinated. 

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