Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts give coronavirus vaccine update

(Lincoln, NE) -- Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts gives a COVID-19 vaccine roll out update Wednesday morning.

During the press conference, Ricketts said that more than 552,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses have been administered in Nebraska, ranking the state 18th by population in the New York Times tracker, with 20% percent of the population having received one dose; 13th in the nation with 11% of the population vaccinated with two doses; and 25th for overall percent of vaccination doses used.

COVID hospitalizations in Nebraska are currently at 131 people, which Ricketts said was about the same as they were at the end of July and the beginning of August.

The governor called attention to a new vaccine study, called American Commitment, which tracks the percentage of the population over age 65 that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The study has ranked Nebraska No. 1 for the percentage of the population in that age group who have been vaccinated here.

Ricketts said health districts will be moving into Phase 2A in the coming weeks, so Nebraskans are encouraged to sign up for their vaccination on the state’s website or by calling in to the hotline for assistance. Nebraskans ages 50-64 will be the next group eligible to receive the vaccine.

The governor asked Nebraskans needing vaccine help by phone to call 402-552-6645 or toll-free at 833-998-2275 for more information on the Nebraska COVID-19 vaccination process. He said people should not call their local health department.

Nebraska has also launched a Spanish version of the state’s vaccination website; those requiring additional language assistance are advised to use the call center, said Lori Snyder, chief information officer for the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services.

She said the state is transitioning its COVID-19 vaccination registration website to allow for vaccine appointment scheduling. Health districts have been sharing all previously entered registration information with the state, and vice versa, so that no registration is unaccounted for. She said that those who have registered may receive email notifications about this process to let them know that data has been transferred into a different system. Pharmacy systems will also be rolled into the state’s system so that discrepancies don’t occur, Ricketts said.

Four health districts will be working to implement the state’s vaccine scheduling system into their websites to start, with more being added in the coming weeks. “We don’t want Nebraska to be a lottery system,” Snyder said. “We are all about being fair and equitable, so we don’t want folks having to go from one website to another to another to try to get registered. We also don’t want the experience of you having to drive around and stand in line.”

Nebraskans will be selected for vaccination by age or by groups selected by local health departments according to whatever phase they are in, she said. COVID-19 vaccination invitations will be sent out for roughly the number of vaccinations that are currently available, she said. So appointments will not be made far into the future, and those receiving an email invitation will know that there is a vaccine dose available for them when they receive the email.

Snyder said the email will contain an encrypted invitation and QR code that is unique to you, so it cannot be shared. “The good news is, you will know that you’ve got a vaccine dose waiting for you when you get to that registration site,” she said.

The governor said he’s expecting Nebraska will receive a share of 400,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for the state’s tribes and territories. He said the state may see a “relatively small amount” of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses next week, but that Nebraska wasn’t expecting to see significant amounts of that vaccine until the end of the month.

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