LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts made clear Monday that he will not mandate coronavirus vaccinations for Nebraskans, whenever those vaccinations become available.
The governor said he has been getting several questions about the subject as vaccine trials have progressed. In response, he points to his track record of responding to the pandemic without mandates.
“We did not do a shelter-in-place order. We did not do a mask mandate,” he said. “We will not be doing a vaccine mandate either.”
But Ricketts said he will be encouraging Nebraskans to get vaccinated when possible. Estimates vary widely about when one or more vaccines might be approved and when they might be widely available.
President Donald Trump has asserted that a vaccine could be ready “during the month of October.” But experts have cast doubt on that timeline. U.S. Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield said last week that a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until the second or third quarter of next year.
Meanwhile, the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative is shooting for January 2021 to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine.
More than 150 coronavirus vaccines are in development across the world, and multiple vaccine candidates have gotten to the third phase of trials, meaning that they are being tried in a broad range of people over a period of time to see if they are safe and effective.
Once a vaccine is approved, federal officials have announced plans to immunize priority groups first, such as health care workers and first responders. People most at risk from the virus likely will be the next group to be offered vaccinations.
Federal officials have asked states to develop a vaccine distribution plan by Nov. 1, including ways to speed up regulatory processes. Ricketts said Nebraska is working on its plan.
Nebraska does not currently mandate any vaccinations for adults, although state law requires certain vaccinations for schoolchildren. The law would have to be changed before the coronavirus could be added to the list of required school immunizations.
On another matter, Ricketts declined to comment on whether it was appropriate to have a grand jury review the case of a white Omaha bar owner who shot a young Black man during protests in downtown Omaha on May 30.
The grand jury returned four felony charges against Jake Gardner last week, including manslaughter. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially determined that Gardner had killed James Scurlock in self-defense, then decided to petition for the grand jury. Gardner killed himself Sunday in suburban Portland, Oregon, rather than turn himself in to stand trial.
“That was Don Kleine’s decision to do that. It’s his decision to make,” Ricketts said of asking for a grand jury. “I think I can describe the whole thing in one word: tragedy. It’s a tragedy for James Scurlock, it’s a tragedy for Jake Gardner. I encourage Nebraskans to pray for all the families involved.”
Ricketts was criticized on Twitter by conservative author Ann Coulter, who claimed the governor should have pardoned Gardner.
Videos: Life in Nebraska amid the pandemic
Nebraskans have shown a wealth of emotions while facing the coronavirus pandemic. We have unleashed a wave of creativity to adapt in the world of social distancing.
Watch a few bright moments our staff has collected while telling the story of this unprecedented period in history.
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