The Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors hosted an online press conference Monday afternoon to mark the first day of National Public Health Week.
The directors presented an overview of the COVID-19 pandemic efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. They urged Nebraskans to register to receive vaccinations at vaccinate.ne.gov.
“Today marks the start of National Public Health Week,” said Sarah Schram of the Sarpy/Cass Health Department, “an occasion that calls for highlighting the work that your local health departments do to meet the broad public health needs of our jurisdiction.”
There are 19 health districts across Nebraska.
On the pandemic, Schram said there is more hope today than a year ago.
“There are three safe and effective COVID vaccines available across our state currently,” Schram said. “Our staff has put in hundreds of thousands of shots in the arms of Nebraskans since the start of this year.”
She said local health departments have continued to address a full range of public health concerns in addition to COVID-19.
“These include stopping the spread of other communicable diseases, establishing local prevention programs to address chronic disease and prevent injuries,” Schram said.
West Central District Health Department Executive Director Shannon Vanderheiden spoke about childhood and adult immunizations.
“We’re looking forward to making sure that children in our rural West Central District get caught up on any of the childhood immunizations they may have fallen behind on during the pandemic,” Vanderheiden said. “We know that this is a problem across the United States.”
Vanderheiden said many individuals have fallen behind on checkups and other vaccines that children and adults need to keep them “healthy and well.”
Jeremy Eschliman of Two Rivers Public Health Department in Kearney answered a question about rural health departments’ continuing to remain vigilant in vaccinations.
“I think what we’re trying to say in so many ways is, metaphorically, we’re not out of the woods yet,” Eschliman said. “We’re seeing good vaccination rates, but we have a long ways to go.” He cited additional COVID-19 variants cropping up and their transmissibility.
“We need to be vigilant in those non-pharmaceutical interventions we’ve talked about so much,” Eschliman said. “The policies that are put in place in a lot of our school districts and everything right now seem very successful, and we just need to hold the line.”
Teresa Anderson of the Central District Health Department, based in Grand island, addressed vaccine hesitancy in rural areas.
“What we’re seeing is very little vaccine hesitancy,” Anderson said. “I think it’s because in this community and many other communities across the state, there has been some very active education going on to help people understand the value of getting the vaccine.”
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