Ricketts: Nebraska not yet able to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to long-term care facilities

As the state awaits more vaccinations, he said those declining the vaccine won’t have doses saved for their use later
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 9:35 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - With part of Phase 1A of Nebraska’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan momentarily on hold, the state is calling up the Nebraska National Guard to assist with preparations for Phase 1B, Gov. Pete Ricketts said during his update Wednesday morning.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, 1,746 Nebraskans had received the first-round vaccination. Seventeen members of the Guard will be calling companies to see who will need vaccines for Phase 1B.

The governor said the state does not yet have enough doses to begin vaccinations at long-term care facilities, which were slated for the state’s vaccine distribution Phase 1A; so the state is focusing exclusively on vaccinating healthcare workers. Officials said they expect to have the state’s entire initial allotment of 15,600 vials by the end of the day Wednesday.

The state was initially expecting to get 104,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in December, but now will be receiving 82,000. The state needs 50,000 doses in order to vaccinate the state’s long-term care facilities, Ricketts said.

While there are no additional Pfizer vaccine deliveries expected next week, more could come the last week in December, Ricketts said. But Nebraska could receive more than 32,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is nearing approval by the FDA, for distribution to 112 hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and local health departments.

Angie Ling, incident commander of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Phase 1B will include first-responders, education and corrections staff, food and agriculture, transportation, and utilities.

“We continue to further define Phase 1B with our community partners, and have the National Guard assisting with gathering information from entities who will be involved in these phases,” Ling said.

These vaccinations will be voluntary, she said, so “if (those priority groups) choose to wait, we will continue to move on. Facilities will not hold on to vaccine product for employees who have opted to wait to be vaccinated.”

The Pfizer vaccine has endured “a significant amount of scrutiny during the clinical trials,” Ling said, noting it is 95% effective, compared to flu vaccine, which is typically 40-60% effective.

“The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus and cannot give individuals COVID-19,” she said.

No serious side-effects have been reported with the Pfizer vaccine, she said, but some could experience soreness, body aches, and fever. A new CDC app called V-safe will soon available on the App Store can help those who choose to be vaccinated track any side-effects they experience, she said.

Reminding Nebraskans that about half of COVID-19 case spread is attributed to asymptomatic cases, the governor encouraged people to get tested ahead of the holiday season. Ricketts said Test Nebraska turnaround times are speeding up, with results for tests in the last week coming back within 24 hours. The governor also said the state is caught up with its contact-tracing backlog.

Red Cross calls for donations

The Nebraska Red Cross is asking for donors as the pandemic has forced them to cancel about 1,300 blood drives, costing them approximately 35,000 units of blood.

Blood donations are safe during a pandemic, said Weysaun Dun of the Red Cross, noting that one donation can potentially save three lives. The Red Cross also tests all donations for COVID-19 antibodies.

Hanukkah message

Rabbi Mendel Katzman said the Jewish community is calling on their congregations to pray and to follow the “three Cs,” connecting and being charitable to neighbors during the holiday season.

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

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