When will you get the vaccine?

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Anton Johnson
ONLINE REPORTER

Thousands of Nebraskans have already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, but many of us might have to wait. Photo courtesy of kovop58 / iStock.

The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccines have already been delivered to almost 9,000 Nebraskans, according to a DHHS news release from Dec. 21. The Moderna COVID vaccine has also been approved by the FDA and will be shipped across the state in the coming weeks.

The vaccine in Nebraska will be distributed in phases as supply increases, according to the plan from the Department of Health and Human Services. The vaccine is delivered in two doses, three weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine was also authorized by the FDA and will soon be distributed in Nebraska. 

Phase 1

Right now, the vaccine is only distributed by local health departments, community-based clinics, and some hospitals. Phase 1 is further split up into three sub-phases to make sure it reaches critical populations. These groups of people will receive the vaccine first:

  1. Healthcare personnel who are most likely to be exposed to Covid-19, and residents and staff of long-term facilities like nursing homes.
  2. Essential workers, with priority for first responders and workers in food, education and transportation. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently recommended that people over the age of 75 also be added to this group, according to the DHHS update.
  3. People with underlying health conditions and other people who have increased risk for COVID-19. This includes people over the age of 65, people living in congregate settings like homeless shelters or correctional facilities, people with disabilities.

Phase 2 and 3

During Phase 2, the vaccine will be provided by pharmacies, doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics and public health sites. The number of doses available should be “sufficient to meet the demand of the general population” at that point, according to the plan.

Phase 3, according to the DHHS plan, “represents a shift towards ongoing vaccination where there is open access to the product via the more traditional network of vaccination.”

Where are we now?

Nebraska is in the earliest stages of the vaccine plan. It’s not clear how quickly we’ll move through the phases. It depends on the supply of the vaccine and how well our state’s health infrastructure distributes it. There have also been issues with the allotment of doses by the government.

Nebraska expected 104,000 total doses for December, but the number was reduced to 82,000. Other states reported similar cuts, with little explanation from Pfizer or the U.S. government.

A majority of teachers in Nebraska plan on getting the vaccine, according to school district’s surveys. The vaccine is expected to be available to teachers in January or February

Gov. Pete Ricketts said in September that there are no plans for any vaccine mandate. Nebraska is also one of 12 states to have not instituted a statewide mask mandate. 

A large majority of Americans will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, but experts are skeptical that making it mandatory would be effective. It is unlikely that federal or state governments will mandate vaccination, but schools, healthcare facilities and some employers potentially could.

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