The State of Nevada is expected to hand off much of its control over COVID-19 mitigation efforts to its local jurisdictions on May 1. That’s the same day that President Joe Biden wants all states to have made every adult in the country eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Nevada is reportedly set to beat that deadline, with one-in-four of those currently eligible already having received at least a first dose.
Gov. Steve Sisolak in a Wednesday evening press conference said all Nevadans who want to be vaccinated will be eligible to schedule an appointment by April 5—including those 16 and older.
The move, he said, will allow for groups of people like friends, families and coworkers to plan on getting it around the same time and may help alleviate vaccine hesitancy and increase ease of accessibility.
While the Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available for people 18 and older, the Pzifer vaccine has emergency approval from the Federal Drug Administration for people 16 and older.
People 16 and older with preexisting conditions will be eligible for the vaccine even earlier than the general population, with appointment scheduling for this group starting on March 22.
“Get the vaccine, whichever one is available for you…You’re protecting yourself, your family and our entire state.”
The ramp up in vaccinations has been swift.
It was only earlier this week that Nevada’s larger counties were approved to drop eligibility from those 65 and older to those 55 and older with preexisting conditions, based upon the state’s age-based “prioritization lane.” Just last week Clark County began vaccinating hospitality and food service workers under the essential workers prioritization lane.
Since January, the state has been operating under a two-lane vaccine distribution system that allows counties to focus on vaccinating both essential workers and vulnerable members from the general population.
Vaccine supply is key
While Sisolak cited expected increases in Nevada’s allotment of vaccines for the expedited vaccination timeline, he also noted that not every citizen may be able to receive one in short order—depending on both demand in the state and the uncertain supply provided each week by the federal government. However, any bottleneck in vaccination scheduling is expected to clear up within a few weeks, he said.
Nevada received only 17,500 doses in its very first vaccine allotment. Its allocation for the week of March 8 was was nearly four times larger, at 64,410 doses, including first doses of Moderna and Pfizer and with automatic second doses allocated based on vaccine-specific intervals, Sisolak said.
As of Wednesday night, the state’s COVID-19 task force’s website was reporting nearly one million first and seconded doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered.
Sisolak touted the state’s early efforts to vaccinate frontline workers like those employed by grocery stories and pharmacies. He also said vaccinating people in the hospitality and food services industries remains important.
“These are folks who cannot work from home and have been going to work every day since this pandemic started, serving all of us,” he said. “I’ve said it before, and I want to repeat it here again today: Nevada will be the safest place to have a convention or come and visit. It will be safe for the tourists and business travelers. It will be safe for employees, and it will be safe for their families.”
Focus on equity, access continues
Despite the fact that vaccine appointments are expected to open up to a larger number of Nevadans, targeted outreach aimed at equity will continue among communities—including minority communities—where vaccination rates have been relatively low.
Sisolak said these efforts include meeting people where they live and making vaccines available to those who lack the resources for public or private transportation.
Starting March 22, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County will offer free rides from several of its services for individuals needing transportation to and from their vaccination appointment.
Sisolak also echoed public health and other elected officials by encouraging people to take whichever of the three currently available vaccines—noting that he took the Janssen vaccine, while Vice President Kamala Harris received Moderna and President Joe Biden received Pfizer.
“As soon as you are eligible, make an appointment,” Sisolak said. “Get the vaccine, whichever one is available for you. Whichever one you can possibly get, get it. You’re protecting yourself, your family and our entire state.”
Candice McDaniel of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services said a new scheduling system is planned to be implemented by April that will prevent the state from being overwhelmed with calls to schedule vaccinations. No details on the new system were provided during the press conference.
Sisolak said additional information concerning vaccine rollout in Nevada will become available in the coming weeks. Those who want to learn more can visit nvcovidfighter.org or call the state’s hotline at 1-800-401-0946.