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25,000 Nevadans have received COVID-19 vaccine

By Sudhiti Naskar
Washoe County public health nurses prepare to administer the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Tuesday more than 20,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and more than 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered to individuals in Nevada’s  Tier 1 vaccination group, said Shannon Bennett, immunization program manager for the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Bennett joined Governor Steve Sisolak to brief Nevadans about the ongoing statewide vaccination drive.

A total of 25,636 doses of COVID-19 have been administered and reported so far. Nevada’s state health team was praised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how well the initial distribution is going in Nevada.

Nevada has been able to vaccinate those at skilled nursing facilities in the first week of the vaccination drive that began on Dec. 21. Sisolak said that not all states have been able to accomplish this task as quickly.

Vaccination in assisted living facilities will start next week. These residents are one of Nevada’s most vulnerable populations and need to be protected, Sisolak added.

Additionally, more federal funding will go into vaccination in the coming months. President-elect Joe Biden has also pledged more support of the vaccine efforts when he takes office. “I look forward to the support,” said Sisolak.

“The process is going well, and we remain in close contact with all counties as first doses are received and administered,” said Bennett.

Immunization rollout

The state is being as transparent about the vaccination process as possible, said Sisolak, adding, “This rollout is unlike any other.”

Bennett said that Nevada will continue to apply a data-driven approach to vaccine allocation, echoing Sisolak’s statement that the vaccination rollout decisions are based on science, ethical principles and federal recommendations.

It is important for Nevadans to know that doses of the vaccine are limited in number, Sisolak stressed.

The state has ordered the second dose of the vaccine this week and will be administering those doses next week to those who were first to be immunized.

For the vaccine to be effective, two doses are required. Individuals must receive both doses using the same product, said Bennett. 

The state wants to work with the vaccinators to ensure that the second dose is ordered for everyone that received the first dose.

Public health nurses organize paperwork and supplies before providing the first COVID-19 vaccinations.
Public health nurses organize paperwork and supplies before providing the first COVID-19 vaccinations. Image: Eric Marks

Each week Nevada receives an allocation for the vaccine from the federal government. “Staff assess the allocation against the needs of each county and then work directly with counties to determine equitable orders for each county for the upcoming week,” Bennett said.

Bennett also explained the execution of COVID-19 vaccination at the state and local levels. Nevada’s immunization program provides guidance to local authorities as it receives more information from the federal government, she said.

As the vaccination continues, some regions may move to the next tiers sooner than others based on factors such as population size and vaccine demands, said Bennett.

When it comes to administering the vaccine, pharmacy partners are testing the individuals in Tier 1 for COVID-19 to make sure that they are COVID negative when they receive the vaccine.

Nevada’s vaccine playbook has been updated, and now individuals 75 or older are included in the prioritization list of Tier 2 or Phase 1b as referred by the CDC, according to Bennett.

These Nevadans will be vaccinated concurrently with Tier 1.

Those 65 to 74 years of age and with underlying health conditions will be vaccinated in Tier 3 alongside Nevada’s second group of essential workers. Workers who are unable to work from home and have a high chance of exposure to COVID-19 will be prioritized.

The vaccination decisions are based on Nevada’s Vaccination Playbook, which remains fluid in its recommendations as health officials receive new knowledge and information about the pandemic.

Double down on COVID-19 mitigation efforts

Sisolak informed Nevadans about the big picture scenario and urged Nevadans to double down on their mitigation efforts.

Earlier this week Dr. Anthony Fauci said that January might be worse than December, said Sisolak.

“Think of the health care providers … Have their backs the way they have ours.”

“In new cases, Nevada is currently ranked eighth nationally. We are ranked second nationally in test positivity, and 17th in admission for hospital beds,” said Sisolak.

It will take time to get to a point of full scale vaccination. Until then, Nevadans need to “double down” on their safety measures, the governor advised.

“Please stay home if you can, especially if you feel sick. Wear a mask at all times when around people who are not in your household. Avoid large crowds, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently,” Sisolak added.

He pleaded with Nevadans to “recommit” themselves before the vaccine is widely available.

If you are thinking of venturing out please think of people who “are struggling to breathe and make it through the night,” said Sisolak. “Think of the health care providers who have been providing the care in the most difficult of circumstances for the last 10 months. And they are asking for our help. Have their backs the way they have ours.”

“If you are over 65 or with significant health conditions, please do not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked” posing immediate risk to your health. Groceries and medication should be delivered.

Safety is a partnership, and everyone has a role to play, Sisolak said, “This way we will come back stronger and recover faster in 2021.”

Businesses will implement directives

Sisolak recognized that Las Vegas is one of the main places to celebrate the new year. “But this year we must look different,” he said.

He appealed to businesses, restaurants and casinos to strictly follow the state’s directives.

State authorities, including the Gaming Control Board, will monitor if all the directives are being followed by businesses.

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