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Vaccinations begin in Nebraska state prisons; health care workers get first shots

Vaccinations begin in Nebraska state prisons; health care workers get first shots

The COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nebraska on Monday.

LINCOLN — Vaccinations for COVID-19 soon will begin in Nebraska prisons, with health care workers expected to get the first shots later this week, officials say.

The first shipment of Moderna vaccine arrived this week, according to State Corrections Director Scott Frakes. Later this week, health care workers who work most directly with inmates will be offered the first 50 doses.

“As in the community, our health care workers are at the top of the priority list,” Frakes said.

After health care staff get their shots, he said, corrections will administer the vaccine as it arrives to staff members based on the jobs they hold and their level of contact with inmates.

According to the state’s vaccination plan, front-line corrections officers are included in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination priorities, along with others who provide critical services, such as first responders. Prison inmates are listed among those in Phase 1C, which includes people ages 65-74 and people with high-risk medical conditions and vulnerable populations.

Dr. Harbans Deol, medical director for corrections, said that within those groups, shots will be prioritized based on who are at highest risk for becoming sick due to age, medical condition and other factors. As more vaccine becomes available, he said, more workers and inmates will get the shots.

Prisons have been identified as a high-risk location for the spread of COVID-19 because social distancing is so difficult. Nebraska’s prison workers have been hit hard by the virus, with 472 testing positive as of Saturday. Three hundred and eighty-six of those workers have recovered, according to the agency.

As of Dec. 18, 873 inmates had tested positive, according to the agency’s website. Six deaths of prisoners have been attributed to COVID-19.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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