According to the Ken­tucky Cabinet for Health and Family Ser­vices update released Tuesday, slightly more than 130,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the state as part of the phased and prioritized distribution immunization plan.

Included in this total have been more than 1,000 local and area health care workers and first responders within the Lincoln Trail Dis­trict serving Hardin, LaRue, Meade, Nelson, Washington and Marion counties.

The rollout of this first phase of the vaccine represents a remarkable step forward in protecting our loved ones and bringing an end to a pandemic that has staggered our nation and the world.

The speed at which scientists developed the vaccine has been as incredible as the short time it took the virus to overtake the world.

It wasn’t until Jan. 30 of last year that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, was identified as a major public health threat. Quickly spreading worldwide from the epicenter of Wuhan, China, where it was first detected, the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a global pandemic March 11.

Under normal conditions, vaccines take years to produce, test and market. Yet, using initial research which began in February, a public-private initiative dubbed Operation Warp Speed initiated and launched last May by the Trump Administration, leveraged the full resources of the federal government and military, medical researchers and the pharmaceutical research industry to swiftly and safely bring about this new vaccine.

It has been an extraordinary feat. It’s also been incredibly expensive with more than $14 billion having been invested in the research, development, purchase and distribution of the new vaccine technology.

It could be easy to mistakenly believe the hard work is behind us. It isn’t.

With early results showing significant promise in helping the immune system fight off the coronavirus, distributing, storing and administering limited vials of the fragile medication will be equally difficult for health institutions across the country. Patience will be necessary as those in high-risk groups receive vaccine injections in the early phases of distribution before it is more fully distributed among the general population in the spring.

Budget-strapped health departments will have difficulty in educating and easing anxiety of those fearful or skeptical of being vaccinated.

It isn’t clear how the vaccines will work against the mutations leading to known new strains of the virus. Further, as weary as we are of all the mask wearing, social distancing and hunkering down at home, we’re nowhere near the end of the tunnel of these health and safety necessities at this time.

These are challenges but they can and will be overcome. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the early roll-out provides a long-awaited glimpse of a clearing tree line just beyond. For this, we are grateful to all those in who have been and will be involved in bringing these new medical marvels of vaccine to the forefront.

This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.

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