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Hundreds of Lincoln health care workers get second round of COVID-19 vaccine
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Hundreds of Lincoln health care workers get second round of COVID-19 vaccine

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Health care workers in Lincoln and elsewhere in the state have started receiving their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, bringing the potential end of the pandemic that much closer.

Bryan Health started giving second doses of vaccine to employees and providers Monday and by the end of the day had already vaccinated more than 600 people, according to Bryan Medical Center CEO John Woodrich.

Altogether, Bryan has given more than 4,500 people at least one dose of the vaccine, including 3,600 of its employees, which accounts for two-thirds of its total staff. Woodrich said Bryan will continue vaccinating people as more vaccine becomes available.

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CHI Health, which operates 14 hospitals, to date has vaccinated nearly 7,000 people, which is about half of its total number of employees, CEO Cliff Robertson said.

Robertson said CHI Health also this week has started to give second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to employees who were among the first to be vaccinated.

"It's a wonderful thing to see people getting their second dose, because that signals that we're that much closer to getting back to some sort of normal," he said.

For Robertson, normal would be COVID-19 cases declining to a "low level" in Nebraska and the surrounding region by fall.

There are employees who have chosen not to get the vaccine, he said, although he did not have numbers. Some of the people declining were doing so temporarily, either because they didn't want to get it before the holidays or they had the disease recently.

Robertson said an informal survey showed at least 80% of staff at CHI Health planned to get vaccinated.

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Those who have received the vaccine at both health systems have reported only mild side effects that resolve in a day or two, including sore arms, headaches, general body aches and mild fevers.

"We just have not seen any major side effects from the vaccine," Woodrich said.

Both Robertson and Woodrich said that the vaccination process has gone relatively smoothly.

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Other than a bit of a slowdown during the Christmas holiday, CHI Health has not had "any issues," Robertson said.

"There's no vaccine that has gone to waste inside CHI Health," he said. "Every dose that we've received that has been allocated to us, we've been able to get into the arm of one of our caregivers."

Woodrich said Bryan, too, has been sure not to waste any vaccine.

He said that there is an allotment of scheduled vaccinations each day, and if Bryan gets to the end of a day and has doses left over, it starts calling people scheduled for the next day to have them come in early to get it, "so that we do not waste a dose."

Lancaster County has vaccinated 7,400 people so far with the 9,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine it has received, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez said.

Thus far, none of the vaccine doses, which must be thawed from ultra-cold freezers, have gone to waste, she said.

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While frontline health care workers continue to receive their vaccinations, residents of long-term care facilities that have been hit hard by coronavirus in recent weeks continue to receive their vaccines.

About half of the long-term care facilities in Lancaster County have begun vaccinations, Heath Boddy of the Nebraska Health Care Association said during a city news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, 800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered at Tabitha, where 95% of residents have now received the first round of coronavirus shots, Tabitha President and CEO Christie Hinrichs said. Three-quarters of the care facilities staff will have received the vaccine by the third week of January, she said.

“Hope is probably one of the best words to describe how we’re feeling,” Hinrichs said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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