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‘I know I’m at high risk’: Nebraska age-focused vaccine schedule frustrates at-risk individuals under 50

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 6:22 PM CST
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RALSTON, Neb. (WOWT) - Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is poised for approval and states should be able to ramp up vaccinations, but the priority list in Nebraska isn’t without controversy.

Older teachers who are with students all the time are beginning to get vaccinated this week in Douglas County. Thursday, 15 Ralston teachers got the shot. Officials in each district in Douglas County are contacting those teachers who are eligible.

There’s one group of Nebraskans, however, who are still struggling with the vaccine priority list as officials slowly working their way down to those groups.

One group, those with high-risk medical conditions, is still outraged that state health officials removed their tier. Now it’s all about age.

“It now feels like the Hunger Games. It’s horrible, absolutely horrible. I feel like I need a shot, you need a shot,” said Lisa Carmichael, who received a new heart nearly a decade ago.

Since she’s 49 — not 50 — she’ll be in the last tier to get vaccinated.

“I know I’m at a high risk, and my heart isn’t functioning well,” Carmichael said.

She watched an online town hall in dismay this week after someone in the high-risk category wanted a better answer from state health officials.

Danette Smith with the Nebraska DHHS responded: “I’m not negating the seriousness of the illness, but we’re going to do it in the age category. It is simpler for us to manage the process and get everyone as soon as possible vaccinated. We are not punishing people with comorbidities. That’s not our intent.”

Carmichael questions why the state even asked for medical histories on the vaccine sign-up page when it seems the point is now moot.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say we’re not as much of a risk as older people,” she said.

The state hasn’t said whether those who have high-risk medical conditions will have any sort of priority once we reach the tier of everyone under age 50.

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