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Nebraska eyeing new federal guidance about releasing more vaccine for first doses

Nebraska eyeing new federal guidance about releasing more vaccine for first doses


LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday that state officials will examine any new federal guidance about using available vaccine to start immunizing more people.

But he said the state wants to be sure people can still get their second vaccine doses as recommended by the manufacturers.

The governor spoke at a morning press briefing as reports came out that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would recommend opening up vaccines to everyone older than 65 and getting vaccines to more people by not holding back the second vaccine dose.

Federal policy until now has been to hold 55% of the vaccine doses in reserve to ensure that there would be enough to provide a second dose to everyone who got a first dose. For both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines, a second dose boosts vaccine effectiveness to more than 90%.

Ricketts said it would be helpful to have more vaccine available to protect more people. However, he said the state would have to look at any new guidance before moving forward, including guidance about speeding up vaccinations for people age 65 and older.

Under the state’s current priority list, people age 65 through 74 are slated to get vaccinated starting in March. Depending on the region, health officials are still working to vaccinate the top priority groups — front-line health workers and long-term care residents and staff. The next group includes those age 75 and older, first responders and people working in key sectors of society.

President-elect Joe Biden has announced plans to release nearly all of the current supply of vaccines, with the idea that the booster doses would come from future shipments of the vaccines. The new announcement would move up the change by at least a week.

Holding the second booster doses in reserve means that it takes longer to get people vaccinated. However, using those doses to give more first-round shots means there is a risk of not having enough vaccine later for the second shots.

The CDC reported that more than 25 million doses of the two authorized vaccines have been distributed in the United States, with nearly 9 million doses administered as of Monday morning. Nebraska had received more than 144,000 doses and administered 78,074 vaccinations as of the same period. That included 10,135 people who have gotten both doses of the vaccine.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-670-2402

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