Though there is still much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 vaccine distribution on campus, the University of Nebraska Omaha Office of Health Security (OHS) has been able to release some new information to alleviate any anxieties in the meantime.
As a recap, on Dec. 11, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while the Moderna vaccine received EUA a week later on Dec. 18. Nebraska was able to acquire limited amounts of each vaccine soon after, with Pfizer shipments arriving on Dec. 13 and Moderna shipments arriving on Dec. 20.
At the moment, only those in Phase 1A are being vaccinated in Douglas County. Individuals who fall in Phase 1A are healthcare workers and long-term care residents.
Going forward, essential workers in education (and other occupations), individuals age 65 or older and individuals with high-risk medical conditions will fall in Phase 1B, receiving the vaccine after all of those in Phase 1A. Finally, Phase 2 will include the general population. More information about phase breakdowns can be found on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.
To prepare for vaccine distribution, UNO has assembled a multidisciplinary team to outline these plans in collaboration with the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) and Nebraska DHHS. The team will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Currently, there is not information available for when vaccines will be distributed to UNO students, faculty and staff – members of Phase 2 – but DHHS states on their website that Phase 1B is expected to begin in mid to late January. Therefore, UNO students, faculty and staff should not expect to receive vaccines until a few weeks after this phase has completed.
According to OHS, each campus unit at UNO was asked for a list of individuals for inclusion in Phase 1B, which was forwarded to DCHD. When UNO knows the number of vaccine doses they will receive, they will work alongside DCHD to notify all vaccine-eligible students, faculty and staff, both in Phase 1B and in future phases.
For the time being, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory and will instead be offered on a voluntary basis. Because UNO does not know the logistics or availability of the two vaccines (from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna), it will not be possible to select which vaccine you would like to receive. That being said, OHS notes that “you must finish the vaccine series with the same product you received the first dose,” and this is true for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna vaccine series.
Right now, it is not clear if the COVID-19 vaccine will be an annual vaccination, similar to the flu shot.
“The need for recurrent COVID-19 vaccines will depend upon the duration of immunologic response, which has not yet been identified,” the OHS said in their official news release.