OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska ranks in the middle of the pack in the rate of administering coronavirus vaccines, but state officials are working to speed up distribution of the shots.
The state ranked 33rd among states and the District of Columbia by administering 14,770 shots per 100,000 people as of Sunday, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, Nebraska has administered 285,708 of the 407,500 doses it has received — or roughly 70% of the doses, according to the federal agency.
Lincoln Dr. Bob Rauner, who is president of the Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, said the state should be distributing the vaccines faster.
“We need to speed our rollout up,” Rauner said.
But Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, said Nebraska is doing relatively well in distributing vaccines compared to the U.S. as a whole. Khan is a former CDC official who has worked on global polio vaccination campaigns.
“The program is getting stronger every week,” Khan said, “and we see that with the increased number of people getting vaccinated.”
According to CDC figures, the state administered about 55,000 shots last week, 1,700 more than the preceding week.
Khan said it became more complicated to distribute the vaccine across the state once local health officials moved beyond inoculating health care workers to focus on long-term care facilities and everyone 65 and older.
Still, Dannette Smith, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said the state is working to administer the vaccines more quickly.
Smith said her agency is developing a team of people who are focused on distributing vaccines, making sure that everyone who should have gotten shots has received them and coordinating efforts with a new federal program that is distributing a limited number of shots to select Walmart stores and community pharmacies across the state.
“We want to make sure we’re doing a better job, that we’re moving from (the state’s current ranking) all the way to No. 1,” Smith said. “That’s our goal.”
Smith said it is a positive sign that so many Nebraskans have expressed interest in getting the coronavirus vaccine.
“We want people to continue to clamor to get the vaccine so that when they get here and their priority is called up, we can get them vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from 543.29 new cases per day on Feb. 1 to 500.29 new cases per day on Monday. The state said 197,447 virus cases and 2,004 deaths linked to COVID-19 have been reported since the pandemic began.