NNPHD Receiving Vaccines Soon; Healthcare Workers, EMS, Long-Term Care Residents Among First To Receive Vaccine

WAYNE – Call it excitement or call it relief, nevertheless a vaccine is on the way. Everyone is having a positive reaction to the vaccine being distributed.

There are two vaccines. One is made by the company Pfizer, which has already been federally approved. The other is being produced by the biotech company Moderna. Moderna had an approval hearing on Thursday, December 17. Most expect this hearing to go well and that the Moderna vaccine will be sent throughout the country, including Northeast Nebraska.

The federal government recommended whom the vaccine should be given to first, but the states have the final call. There are four phases in which the vaccine will be distributed. Those are called, in chronological order, Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Phase 1C, and Phase 2. Phase 1A involves frontline healthcare professionals, long term care residents, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers. Phase 1B will vaccinate essential workers such as law enforcement, utility workers, grocery stores, and education workers. Phase 1C will give the vaccine to the vulnerable population. This includes people over the age of 65, people with underlying health conditions, those with disabilities, and homeless people. Phase 2 will open the vaccine to the public.

Julie Rother is the Health Director for the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department (NNPHD), which covers Cedar, Dixon, Thurston, and Wayne Counties. Rother has been in this position for over four years.  She talked about when her health department can expect the vaccine.

“We’re expecting that we will get doses in this area to start vaccinating some of those frontline healthcare workers sometime next week, sometime by the 27th (of December),” she stated.

Rother noted that these vaccines are kept frozen. NNPHD will receive the Moderna vaccine, which has 30 days to be used once its refrigerated.

The director mentioned how NNPHD will work out the best ways to distribute the vaccine, especially how to identify essential workers and the vulnerable population.

“Right now, what we’re doing is we’re having conversations with the healthcare providers in our area as well as EMS and we’re working through emergency managers for the area,” she said.

Distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers and long-term care residents should be easier and EMS workers are aligning with hospitals that way they are accounted for. Long-term care residents will get the vaccine through three pharmacies that have contracted with the federal government. Those pharmacies are CVS, Walgreens, and Community Pharmacy.

Rother speculated when pharmacies that give flu vaccinations would also carry the COVID-19 vaccine for the public’s use.

“I would imagine that probably by April we could have them on board as COVID vaccine providers you actually have to apply to be a COVID vaccine provider through the state immunization program,” she explained.

NNPHD is also looking at options through the National Guard for vaccine distribution.

For more information on NNPHD, visit their website at https://nnphd.org/.