Ricketts defends decision to remove comorbidities category from Phase 1B

(Lincoln, NE) -- Nebraska's Governor is defending the state's decision to remove people ages 18-64 with pre-existing conditions from Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Friday, Ricketts said the state chose to focus on age rather than pre-existing conditions because the two are correlated. The Governor said as people older, they’re more likely to have pre-existing conditions. “Those (older) folks are most at risk,” he said. 83% of COVID-19 deaths have been elderly people.

Ricketts said there’s no comparative data on how much faster it might be to focus on age rather than co-morbidities, but said attendance at vaccination clinics played a part in the decision. “When we look, for example, at clinics we run where we say, ‘hey, if you’re 65 years and older, come in,’ we can book those and we get all the vaccines out. When we try to do other sorts of populations, we know that we don’t get it fully booked,” he said. “...We have lots of no-shows, people don’t show up or whatever, for whatever reason. ... It is less efficient than doing it by age.”

For people who are younger with those conditions, “nothing’s changed,” he said, because the focus has always been on the older population. “If you’re younger, we know that you’re much more likely to survive,” Ricketts said, pointing to data of COVID-19 deaths in Nebraska which show that such deaths among people younger than age 49 accounted for less than half of those in the 50-59 age group, though he did acknowledge that co-morbidities probably played a part in the deaths of that older category.

“Broadly based on the broad data that we have, you’re going to be more at risk if you’re 65 years or older,” said Ricketts, stopping short of assessing how the COVID risks for a 40-year-old with a certain co-morbidity might compare to a healthy 65-year-old.

The governor did not share details of how the vaccine roll out might proceed past Phase 1B.

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