More than half of adult Nebraskans now have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, marking a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19.
Almost 774,000 Nebraskans had gotten at least one shot as of Sunday, according to a World-Herald analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That works out to be 53% of the state’s 18-and-older population and puts the state at 18th best in that category, up two spots from last week.
In addition, more than half a million Nebraskans — some 531,000 — now are fully vaccinated. That figure, a little more than 36% of the state’s adults, put Nebraska at No. 14 among states.
In the bigger picture, Nebraska’s rollout is on par with or slightly ahead of the nation at large, with half of all American adults having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the CDC.
Federal officials also announced Monday that anyone 16 and older now is eligible for the vaccine.
In Nebraska, there still are quite a few people who want to get vaccinated and who are attending mass vaccination clinics, particularly in Douglas and Lancaster Counties, said Susan Bockrath, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors. That includes many younger people, those 16 and older, who only recently became eligible for the shots.
But some slots are getting harder to fill, she said, and local health departments are changing how they reach people.
More clinics in the future may be attached to schools, as recently occurred in Grand Island and is occurring in Lincoln.
Another option may be to reach out to chambers of commerce to host Zoom meetings to help local businesses understand talking points that can convince reluctant workers, she said. Some health departments are offering vaccination clinics at manufacturing facilities.
But Bockrath said the time also has come where health officials need everyone to talk up the vaccines to anyone who will listen. Health officials need those who are nervous or unsure to turn to health departments, the CDC’s website and other reliable sources to get questions answered.
One ongoing frustration is how politicized vaccination still is in some communities, she said. But a positive sign is that health officials are seeing some who initially said they were not going to get vaccinated make a different decision.
Indeed, 73% of Nebraskans 65 and older now are fully vaccinated, putting Nebraska at No. 11 in that category. But the total continues to creep up, suggesting that some older Nebraskans who were reluctant to get the vaccines initially have since gotten them. The number of fully vaccinated Nebraskans 65 and older was just under 70% the week before.
Nebraska health officials don’t appear to face as hard a sell as those in some states.
Iowa was in the top third in hesitancy with 20% estimated hesitant and 10% strongly hesitant. The highest was Wyoming with 31% estimated hesitant, and the lowest were Massachusetts and Vermont with 7%.
In the more detailed breakdown, federal officials divided Douglas County into quadrants. Hesitancy was estimated at 21% in the northeast, 19% in the southeast and 15% in the northwest and southwest.
“We absolutely believe in these vaccines and what they can do to help us have safe summers that are full of (good times) with the people we want to see,” Bockrath said.
“There’s a lot more to do, but you can’t understand what a relief it is to know a half-million Nebraskans (have been) vaccinated,” she said.
And some more good news:
While Nebraska’s cases had been ticking upward for the past couple of weeks, the state recorded 2,090 new cases for the week that ended Saturday, down almost 13% from 2,395 the previous week.
Last week’s case count was only modestly higher than it has been over the past two months, indicating the state may be avoiding the kind of large third surge affecting some other states.
Nebraska’s per capita cases for the week, in fact, ranked well below the national average and was 28th among the states. Iowa came in even lower at No. 32. Cases in Michigan last week, on the other hand, were running five times higher than in Nebraska.
Now that you’re vaccinated, here's what you can and can’t do
What you can do
CDC guidance contains activity recommendations for fully vaccinated people in private settings and includes:
Visiting with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks.
Visiting with unvaccinated people from one other household indoors without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart if everyone in the other household is at low risk for severe disease.
Refrain from quarantine and testing if no symptoms of COVID-19 are experienced after contact with someone who has COVID-19.
The CDC has also updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. Read more about that here:
For the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC, go to the CDC's COVID-19 site.
Precautions in public
The CDC says that anyone who is fully vaccinated should continue to take these precautions when in public, when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple other households, and when around unvaccinated people who are at high risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19:
Wear a well-fitted mask.
Stay at least 6 feet apart from people you do not live with.
Avoid medium and large in-person gatherings.
Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
10 things to know about vaccine side effects
Here’s a list of 10 things you should know about potential COVID-19 vaccine side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard Medical School:
- The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine both require two shots in order to get the most protection. You should get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get it.
- Side effects from the second injection may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot.
- The most commonly reported symptoms are pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection. Other common symptoms reported include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.
- You may take acetaminophen, aspirin or antihistamines for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated — as long as you have no medical conditions that prevent you from taking them normally.
- It is not recommended that you take pain relievers before being vaccinated in an effort to prevent side effects. They may interfere with the vaccine’s effectiveness.
- If you have pain at the vaccine’s location, keep the arm active and use a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the site.
- For a fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly to remain as cool as possible.
- The symptoms should improve within two or three days.
- Call the doctor if redness and/or tenderness at the injection site worsen after 24 hours.
- Call your doctor if any other symptoms seem to be worsening or not improving after two to three days
Can I get COVID-19 after being vaccinated?
Like other vaccines, such as the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccines work by teaching the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity against the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because of this, it is possible for a person to get COVID-19 before or just after vaccination, and then get sick because the body hasn’t had enough time to develop protection.
Dr. Michael Lindberg, chief medical officer at Monadnock Community Hospital in New Hampshire, said that while possible, it’s “very uncommon” for someone to become infected with COVID-19 after vaccination.
Should I still get tested after getting vaccinated?
If you’ve been vaccinated and are showing symptoms of COVID-19, then yes, you should get tested.
If you have been vaccinated and don’t have symptoms, however, you don’t need to get tested even if you suspect you’ve been exposed to the virus, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When will we hit herd immunity?
Scientists estimate that potentially 75% to 85% of the population needs to be immune to reach herd immunity for COVID-19. Some estimates are higher, at around 90%. As of March 29, 15.8% of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated, 28.6% had gotten at least one dose.
How long will we have to wear face masks?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in February that even with increasing vaccinations, it’s “possible” Americans could still be wearing face masks and coverings in 2022.
Also contributing to this report: The News & Observer (N.C.), The Keene Sentinel (N.H.), Dayton Daily News (Ohio) and The Staten Island Advance (N.Y.)