Gov. Pete Ricketts held a news conference on Oct. 26 detailing the state's plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

State officials in Nebraska are preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes available. The plan includes three phases and comes at a time when nearly 50% of Americans may not be willing to get a vaccination for the virus.

The vaccine, being developed by pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer, will include two doses. Both companies have their vaccine in large-scale clinical trials. There is no word when these vaccines will be approved by the FDA and become available to the public.

In phase one, the vaccine will be distributed using Nebraska’s existing vaccines for children provider network. A network that includes health care providers, local health departments, federally-qualified health centers, community-based clinics, tribal health care and hospitals.

Phase one is broken down into two parts:

Phase 1A includes vaccine distribution to: health care personnel, hospitals, emergency rooms, long-term care staff, urgent care and primary care access points. 

Phase 1B includes distribution to: residents of long-term care facilities, people 65 years and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions, essential critical infrastructure workers, vulnerable populations and congregate populations.

“We expect that vaccine supply will be limited early on and initial doses will go to health care personnel and critical populations,” said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

In the state’s plan, the second phase will take place when the vaccine becomes available to the general public, but that’s once more doses of the vaccine become available, which experts predict will be in April 2021.

Phase three will focus on extending provider coverage and vaccination reach.

“DHHS, has worked to ensure that inclusion, transparency, and a sound, evidence-base are the foundation of our plan,” Ling said.

According to the plan, to achieve immunity from COVID-19, two doses of the vaccine will be necessary, separated by 21 to 28 days after the first dosage. Fundamentally, the vaccine should not be of cost to Nebraskans, either, according to Gov. Pete Ricketts.

“The vaccine is free. It has been secured by the federal government. They have purchased these vaccines from the different companies. That’s kind of the risk they’ve taken to make sure everyone is healthy and safe,” said Jeri Weberg-Bryce, immunization program manager for the State of Nebraska.

While the vaccine will be free from the federal government, people could still incur an administrative charge from their physician. Fees and administrative costs are still determined by vaccine developers and the federal government.

Regardless of the state’s phases in vaccine distribution, “it will be voluntary whether or not people will want to get a vaccine,” Gov. Ricketts said. 

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a pandemic playbook, which set an Oct. 16 deadline for the state to create a vaccine plan. The State of Nebraska formally submitted its plan that day.

Days before the deadline, however, on Oct. 12, Johnson and Johnson became the second vaccine developer to suspend its COVID-19 vaccine trial due to mysterious illnesses. 

The first vaccine, AztraZeneca, was also suspended by the FDA due to unexplained illness. As of Oct. 23, the FDA has authorized the AztraZeneca clinical trials to begin again.

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