Nebraska to allocate COVID-19 vaccine for under 65 with certain comorbidities

Nebraskans who haven’t registered for COVID-19 vaccination urged to sign up on state site
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 9:28 AM CST
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LINCOLN Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced during his update Wednesday morning that the state will work with local health departments to administer COVID-19 vaccine to Nebraskans with certain pre-existing conditions in Phase 2A.

Ricketts announced that the state is planning to allow healthcare providers to help local health directors determine which of those with certain comorbidities should be eligible for vaccine at the start of Phase 2A, “which is very near,” according to Angie Ling, incident commander with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“As our prioritization has changed with an age-based focus, we are aware that medical conditions can still increase a patient’s risk of a poor outcome from COVID-19,” she said.

The state is currently working through Phase 1B, Ricketts said, and he couldn’t yet say for sure when the state might begin Phase 2A as it depends on “how many people are signing up and how much vaccine we’re getting.”

“There’s a lot of variables we just can’t predict,” the governor said.

He did say that some health districts will likely be finishing Phase 1B within the next few weeks. When the state moves into Phase 2A, 90% of Nebraska’s COVID-19 vaccination allocations will be administered to those ages 50-64, but 10% of weekly allocations will be administered to those with certain pre-existing conditions.

“The decision of who will be vaccinated with those doses will be made by the medical community. The state will not be determining what medical conditions are included. The medical community will identify the appropriate patients and work with the health departments to get them scheduled,” Ling said.

Some locations may set up special clinics, others may opt to get them scheduled into existing community clinics, she said.

“It is important to note that not all medical conditions are the same,” Ling said. “For example, a person with high blood pressure that is controlled on one low-dose medication is very dif than a person with high blood pressure maxed out on four medications and still has uncontrolled blood pressure. This is why it is important to allow the medical community to make these decisions so we can get the highest-risk patients vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Ling urged those who aren’t yet registered on the Nebraska vaccination registration portal to do so.

“Moving forward, the state system will be the sole source for sign-ups,” she said.

Ricketts said all Nebraska COVID-19 vaccinations, even those being administered by pharmacies, will be handled through that system eventually, and that local health departments were already working to move into that statewide system.

Local health department sign-ups were imported, she said, but those who are concerned their registration hasn’t transferred may do so again, or call the state’s vaccination hotline for assistance.

Ling also gave an update on the Nebraska COVID-19 vaccine allocations. After a delay of vaccine deliveries during the week of Feb. 15, the state received three weeks’ worth of doses in the last 10 days, giving out nearly 78,000 doses last week, she said.

The state is expecting 23,400 primary doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 19,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, Ling said. In addition to a one-time allocation of 15,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires a single shot. After this week, Nebraska is expecting a gap in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries for a few weeks, with the next delivery slated toward the end of March.

The governor also addressed ethical concerns that have come up about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I think that’s a very personal decision, and I would encourage people to work with their healthcare provider and their faith leaders to be able to make that decision,” Ricketts said, noting that all three vaccines are “100% effective at keeping you out of the hospital, 100% effective at preventing death.”

Other topics

ELECTION DAY HOLIDAY: Ricketts said he would not support a bill to make Election Day a state holiday. He said that elections have been conducted successfully in the state without it.

ROLLING POWER OUTAGES: The governor also acknowledged Wednesday’s hearing with the Southwest Power Pool regarding the rolling power outages caused by a widespread mid-February cold snap, echoing his criticisms of rolling blackouts Nebraskans were subjected to last month. He said he wants to know from SPP officials what their plan is to make sure that scenario never happens again.

“I want them to kind of lay out the basis for what they think the causes were, where were the weak points, and what steps they’re going to take to make sure that Nebraskans can know they’re not going to be subject to another rolling blackout,” Ricketts said.

TEXAS MASK MANDATE: Ricketts said he didn’t have any opinion on the lifting of the Texas mask mandate by the governor there because it wasn’t something that Nebraska was ever dealing with.

“He’s actually late to the game compared to where we are here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said, noting there was never a state mask mandate here.

He said the DHMs opening up Nebraska, with a few rules still in place, were implemented several weeks ago.

“Frankly, we’ve been much more opened up than Texas. They’re kind of behind us in regards to this,” he said.

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

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