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More than half of adult Nebraskans have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

More than half of adult Nebraskans have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

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Pete Ricketts, Governor of Nebraska, joins Tony Perkins to discuss his opposition to vaccine passports.

For more Washington Watch with Tony Perkins, visit www.tonyperkins.com.

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.

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As variants of Covid-19 have spread in the US, the public health policy and programmatic responses have been largely consistent: vaccinate as soon as possible, mask up and keep social distancing. But as vaccinations have increased, there has been a collective relaxation of the masking and distancing that were previously indispensable public health measures.

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