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Nebraska officials give update on post-vaccine blood-clot patient, report on variants, vaccine breakthroughs

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 9:36 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - State officials said Monday that the Douglas County man who suffered a blood clot after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccination is still in the hospital.

The update was provided Monday morning during Gov. Pete Ricketts’ regularly scheduled news conference on the Nebraska COVID-19 response.

Right now, the CDC is investigating what caused the “significant medical event,” specifically referred to as a thromboembolic event — or blood clot — to form. Dr. Gary Anthone, chief medical officer with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said that as of Friday, the person who developed a blood clot after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was still at UNMC in “guarded condition.”

While blood clots are serious, the governor urged Nebraskans to get vaccinated, saying recent the reports hadn’t changed the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — that risk of death from COVID-19 is still much higher than the risk of developing a blood clot. He said studies have shown that the blood clots manifested as much in vaccine trial participants that received a placebo as received the J&J vaccination.

”Your risk of dying from getting COVID is much greater than a risk of even having one of these incidents,” the governor said. “With a .06% of the time getting a blood clot incident versus a little over 1% time, as Felicia was talking about, you’re about 16 or 17 times more likely to die of COVID than even having a blood clotting incident.”

Ricketts reiterated that all of the vaccines are safe and effective and that people should take whatever vaccine is made available to them.

COVID-19 report

Ricketts said Monday that Nebraska hospitals were reporting 37% of hospital beds and ICU beds were available, and that 750,000 Nebraskans have had at least one dose of vaccine.

As of Monday, Nebraska ranks fifth in the nation in vaccinating vulnerable populations, he said, noting that the state would be receiving a lot fewer doses of J&J vaccine this week — though plenty of Moderna and Pfizer doses. The state delivered more than 30,000 vaccines in a single day last week, he said.

Ricketts said state officials are awaiting authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine for use on youth ages 12-15, but will have to wait to see what the data says. The governor said having that emergency use authorization for younger folks will be good, and that their vaccinations would roll out similar to other age groups, the main difference being that they would need consent from a parent or guardian.

Elicia Quintana-Zinn, deputy director of the DHHS Health Data and Informatics Section, shared information about COVID-19 variants present in the state, noting an increase in variant cases in Nebraska.

To date, DHHS has identified 237 cases of variants, she said. Of those, 187 have been the U.K. variant, which is more more contagious and severe; 48 cases of the California strain; and two cases of the Brazil variant.

The state is also tracking post-vaccine COVID-19 breakthroughs, Quintana-Zinn said. As of Friday, only 122 reports had been made of people contracting the virus within 14 days of receiving the vaccine, amounting to 0.03% of the vaccinated population. That means the COVID-19 vaccines are working for more than 99% of people, she said.

DHM changes

Ricketts plans to update Nebraska’s directed health measures later this week to align with the CDC’s updated guidance on antibody tests.

New CDC guidelines state that anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 but has not yet been vaccinated does not need to quarantine if they have tested positive — via an approved serology test — for antibodies in the past three months.

Helping military spouses

Nebraska is doing more to help military spouses find work in state government as officials unveiled the Military Spouse Transition Program on Monday.

As part of a push to make Nebraska a more military-friendly state, the program will provide things like career and resume services, networking opportunities, and job search assistance for the spouses of active-duty military in Nebraska.

“What we’ll be doing is when military service members have a new assignment, and an active duty command here in Nebraska, we’ll be working with that family and a spouse to try and find them an employment opportunity in state government if that’s their aspiration,” said Jason Jackson, director of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services.

The state also unveiled Skillbridge, which hopes to aid active-duty military transitioning to civilian life, through webinars slated to begin Thursday.

Other topics

GOVERNOR’S RACE: Ricketts declined to say who he might support in the next gubernatorial election. The governor, who terms out, said he will back a candidate but hasn’t yet chosen anyone to support for the 2022 race.

INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT CARD: Nebraska received a C- from the White House on its infrastructure, but the governor said that only 5% of President Biden’s plan only addresses roads and bridges, calling the bills just a way of push Democrat projects through.

NEBRASKA STATE PENITENTIARY: Ricketts said the Unicameral has two options: either build a new prison that’s modern and allows for inmate programs, or fixing up the old state prison. The project isn’t about expanding capacity, he said, it’s about updating facilities.

Watch Monday’s news conference

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