Omaha woman petitions for high-risk Nebraskans to be back in phase 1B

(Omaha, NE) -- An Omaha woman is making it her mission to get those with high-risk medical conditions back into phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan.

Mura O’Neille Rohe started a petition last week asking Governor Pete Ricketts to put those with underlying conditions back on the priority list, gaining nearly 1,500 signatures as of Tuesday.

Mura isn't petitioning for herself to be on the list though. She is waging this battle for her husband, who is living with stage 4 cancer. “As we speak, he’s doing what is the first of a 2-step process for a major surgery where they’re going to remove part of his liver and the next part is in 4-6 weeks, and we had been really, really, really hoping he would get at least one shot before that surgery, and now we know that’s not going to happen,” Mura tells WOWT 6 News.

Last week, Governor Ricketts announced that those with pre-existing conditions were being removed from phase 1B, as the focus was shifting more to age. Ricketts and the state's Chief Medical Officer say the move was made because the majority of people dying from COVID-19 in Nebraska are 65 and older.

Mura says the older population should be high on the list, but people with pre-existing conditions should, too. She’s happy to see the growing support on the petition. “There’s kind of a silent -up until now- community of people in our situation who felt that, until a few days ago, they were going to get vaccinated soon and then found out that they weren’t, and all of those people have friends and family who know exactly how tough it’s been on people in our situation.”

Mura says her family has had to make big sacrifices over the last year to mitigate the risk wherever they can. She and her husband’s 7-year-old daughter hasn’t gone to school in a year or even played with a friend. “Think back to March and April last year when this all started and people stopped going out. When people were wiping down their groceries and not gathering with anyone and not doing anything - that never ended for us.”

Mura hopes to send the governor a message. “My message to Governor Pete Ricketts is that we’re not trying to jump the line. We just want the next place in line. "

In Mura’s case, a vaccine for her husband - sooner rather than later - would bring back a sense of comfort and normalcy they’ve been longing for. “It adds that extra belief that if something happened, it wouldn’t kill him and that’s the fear that we’ve lived with every day for the last year,” she said.

Mura say her family has spent every day of the last year being afraid, and getting her husband the vaccine would mean they could breathe easier and wouldn’t have to be afraid of the virus anymore. "We’re used to being afraid of cancer and we’re used to fighting that, but being afraid every day of not being able to share a meal with his mother before he has a major surgery, to be able to send my daughter back to school and give her some more normalcy back in her life, especially as we navigate the surgery of my husband and his recovery.”

Mura doesn’t know if things will change, but she hopes to get more signatures on her petition and send it to the governor. She says she will continue to be an advocate and a voice for people with pre-existing conditions who want a vaccine and can’t yet get one.

You can sign the petition here.

(Photo by WOWT 6 News / Mura O'Neille Rohe)

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