It might take almost four months to vaccinate Nebraskans who are 65 years and older, have a high-risk medical condition or are a critical infrastructure worker.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the Phase 1B age category from 75 years to 65 years, more than 500,000 additional residents were added, delaying the COVID-19 vaccinations, Ricketts said in a Friday press briefing.
The timeline was calculated with the estimation that about 75% of Nebraskans 65 years or older would want to receive the vaccine. The rate the state is receiving vaccinations also plays a role, and if Moderna or Pfizer ramped up production, the wait might be shorter.
“It just depends on what allocations we get from the federal government. Obviously four months is a long time,” Ricketts said. “With data we know right now, we have fairly good confidence of allocations we are going to get weekly, but if they don’t change or increase, we were just doing the math and that’s what the math is.”
Nebraska has been receiving about 23,500 of primary doses per week, said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Four health districts are still in Phase 1A — including long-term care facilities and health care workers — and 15 districts have transitioned to Phase 1B.
So far in metropolitan areas, 75%-80% of those qualified for a dose are choosing to be vaccinated, Ling said. About 50%-60% of people in rural areas have been getting the vaccine.
Ricketts said he’s asking local health departments to use 90% of their vaccine allocations toward those 65 and older for now, with the rest going to lower-priority groups such as those who are high-risk, first responders, educators and other critical infrastructure workers.
“When you look at (the age) category of 45 to 64, fatalities per 100,000 was 56,” Ricketts said. “It’s almost 510 when you get over 65. They are greater at risk.”
Ricketts said he didn’t know how much vaccine production would have to increase in Nebraska for the country to reach President Joe Biden’s goal of administering 100 million shots during his first 100 days in the White House.
“I think that is an ambitious goal. I sure hope that is true that we can get that many out,” he said.
The state’s vaccine registration website is expected to open Thursday, Jan. 28, but officials said people who have already signed up through their health department don’t need to register again.