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Nebraska expects ramp up of vaccinations after slow start

January 4, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Officials who are leading Nebraska’s pandemic response said Monday that they expect a large increase in coronavirus vaccinations over the next two weeks after a slowdown over the holidays.

Nebraska has given 36,360 vaccinations so far out of the 94,697 doses in its possession, according to new data on the state’s tracking portal. Most who have received initial doses at this point are front-line health care workers who were given first priority.

Nebraska began vaccinating people on Dec. 15 but saw sharp drops in daily doses administered on Dec. 25 and the two following days. The numbers rose to roughly 3,000 per day afterward but dropped again to 1,579 on Jan. 1, according to the data.

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“Certainly we would like to see more vaccines go out more quickly, but if you look at relative to what’s going on in the rest of the country and the holidays and everything, we expect we’ll see a pickup in the pace of vaccines,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a news conference.”

Ricketts said the slowdown was compounded by health care workers who took time off for the holidays and weren’t available to get vaccinated.

Nebraska is giving first priority to health care workers and people with ties to long-term care facilities, along with elderly residents. Educators and meatpacking employees will follow them.

People who are considered medically vulnerable are also expected to qualify before the general public, but state officials won’t define who fits into that group for at least the next few weeks, said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Vaccinations may not be available to the general public until April. Ling said state officials are relying on local health departments to help identify some people who qualify for early doses, and mobile vaccination centers will also be offered.

“There will be multiple ways that people will have access to vaccinations,” Ling said.

Nebraska reported 511 people who were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Sunday night, according to the state’s tracking portal. The state has an average of 4,050 staffed hospital beds.

Nebraska has also confirmed 169,000 cases and 1,672 deaths since the pandemic began. About 64% of those who died were at least 75 years old.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte