Gov. Pete Ricketts on Tuesday said people should "stay tuned" on potential changes to the state's COVID-19 vaccination plans after the federal government moved to get more people the vaccine faster.
The Trump administration Tuesday announced it would release millions of shots it was holding back to ensure necessary second doses are available and also to prioritize giving the vaccine to people 65 and older and those with preexisting health issues that might put them at higher risk of coronavirus complications.
Currently, people age 65-74 and younger Nebraskans with high-risk medical conditions are in Phase 1C of the state's vaccine rollout program and are not expected to have access to vaccinations until March at the earliest.
Many health departments around the state are still focused on getting the vaccine to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities (Phase 1A), while some have started giving the vaccine to people age 75 and over and essential workers (Phase 1B).
Ricketts said the state has been having discussions with hospitals and local health departments about possible adjustments to the vaccine schedules and will likely provide more information in the coming days.
"Stay tuned," he said. "You will see that we will be making some changes with regard to 65 years and older."
But he implored people to "please do not call your local health departments." Directions on how older Nebraskans can get scheduled for a vaccination are coming soon.
Bob Ravenscroft, vice president of advancement at Bryan Health, said Bryan was contacted last week about patients in its health networks who are 75 and older and now has been asked for information about patients 65 and older. He said he assumes other local health providers have been contacted as well.
"I think that is all geared toward how many (vaccinations) do we need here for this next wave of public vaccinations," he said.
The governor said that if more vaccine doses are being released to states by the federal government, then state officials will work to get those doses out faster. However, he said that Nebraska will continue to follow manufacturer guidance about giving two doses of the shots. The Pfizer shot requires a second dose within 21 days, while the gap is 28 days for the Moderna vaccine.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday in a news release that more than 38,000 vaccine doses were given last week. According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, more than 68,000 people have received a vaccination to date, including about 10,000 who have received the required two shots for full vaccine effectiveness.
More than 40% of the state's 90,000 health care workers have received at least one vaccine dose.
Though Nebraska so far has only gotten two doses to about 0.7% of its population of people 16 and older, it ranked fifth among the states in per-capita vaccination rate and sixth in getting vaccine doses distributed as of Monday.
Ricketts called the vaccines a "miracle of modern medicine" but said people will need to continue to take precautions, at least through the first half of the year, to slow the spread of the virus.
"We've got several more months, folks, of fighting this pandemic," he said.
To that end, Ricketts said he was extending an executive order allowing public meetings to be held virtually until the end of April. It had been scheduled to end at the end of January.
PHOTOS: LINCOLN DURING THE PANDEMIC
Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down
City Council distancing
Gameday empty Saturday
Thank you Bryan West
No fans allowed
Volleyball social distancing
Boo at the Zoo
Downtown mask art
Marching band competition
East Campus proposed budget cuts
No Football Saturday
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People in Need food distribution
Masks For Truckers
Teacher and Staff Parade
Virtual City Council
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Tower Square sign
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Simpsons in the windows
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
Blue for public health
Basketball without fans
Thanksgiving to go
Socially distant Santa
Christmas tree demand
Basketball fans reduced
Mike Hilgers at Legislature's First Day
Zoo Bar membership
New high school
Biking in snow
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On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.