Nebraska expands eligibility for coronavirus vaccine
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska plans to expand the next phase of its coronavirus vaccine campaign to include everyone 65 and older.
Previously, the state had planned to vaccinate people 75 and older during the next phase, which also includes essential workers who cannot work from home, but the federal guidance on who should be vaccinated next changed this week. Some younger people with high-risk medical conditions may also be eligible for vaccines in that next phase.
In most parts of Nebraska the next phase of vaccinations is expected to begin in early February after officials finish inoculating health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Rupp with the University of Nebraska Medical Center cautioned that expanding the group that is eligible for the vaccine by 300,000 to 400,000 people means it will take longer to get through that phase and the overall pace of vaccinations may not change much because of the logistical challenges involved.
“I would just plead with folks to continue to have patience,” Rupp said to the Omaha World-Herald. “We’re working through this as quickly as possible. And overall, the public health services are doing a really good job with this.”
State officials hope to have a vaccine registration website available sometime around Jan. 29, said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. She said officials are working with the software developer to ensure it doesn't crash because of a surge in users.
Ling cautioned that some primary health providers still don't have vaccines because there aren't yet enough to go around, and local public health departments have determined where the product will go locally based on a variety of factors.
“Just because you're in a priority group doesn't mean you'll be getting one tomorrow,” she said in a Facebook live update to answer public questions. “It will take time, so you need to be patient.”
The state administered 5,214 doses of the vaccine on Tuesday, but it has only administered about half of the 175,021 doses it has received so far.
Nebraska reported 1,529 cases and 12 deaths Wednesday to give the state a total of 179,199 cases and 1,803 deaths. Over the past week, the number of daily new cases has averaged 948.14.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus declined to 449 Wednesday from 457 the day before. That total remains elevated, but it is less than half of the November peak of 987.