In a month’s time, more than 2,090 doses of vaccine have been administered in the South Heartland Health District to protect health care workers against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, the district health department reported Thursday.
The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the health district on Dec. 15, 2020. Doses of the Moderna vaccine began arriving a week or so later. Those doses were earmarked for frontline health care workers, including emergency medical services personnel, as part of Phase 1A in Nebraska’s vaccination plan.
(Residents of long-term care facilities and the employees who work there began being vaccinated the week after Christmas by pharmacy workers through a separate government program, also as part of Phase 1A in the state plan.)
In a news release Thursday evening, Michele Bever, South Heartland health department executive director, said in the South Heartland district vaccine providers are working to achieve a quick turnaround time, administering the vaccines as soon as possible after they receive them.
“Vaccine is not stockpiled,” Bever said. “Our goal is to get all of our allocated vaccine out within a week of receiving it. Along with our vaccination partners in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties, we are working feverishly to get the vaccine into arms of individuals in the priority groups who want the vaccine.”
Bever said South Heartland is working with Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, Brodstone Memorial Hospital in Superior, Webster County Community Hospital in Red Cloud and the Clay County Health Department to vaccinate residents in the health district’s four counties: Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls.
“SHDHD and our partners have administered 99 percent of the vaccine we received to use as first doses,” Bever said. “Next week, our four-county area will focus on wrapping up the first doses for the health worker priority group. We will also be giving the second ‘booster’ doses to health workers who received their first COVID-19 shots in December.”
Recipients of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose of the same product for proper protection. The interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine is at least 21 days; the interval for Moderna is at least 28 days.
Meanwhile, 72 additional residents of the South Heartland district have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 since Tuesday.
The new cases recorded Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday show up on the COVID-19 data dashboard posted to the district health department’s website, www.southheartlandhealth.org.
The 72 new cases — 46 in Adams County, 13 in Clay, 10 in Nuckolls and three in Webster — bring to 4,050 the running total of COVID-19 positive cases recorded among health district residents since March 18, 2020.
As of Thursday, a total of 2,657 cases had been recorded to date in Adams County, along with 657 in Clay, 421 in Nuckolls and 315 in Webster.
Districtwide, 3,662 of the 4,050 total recorded cases had been classified as “recovered” as of Thursday, according to newly updated statistics.
The district has seen a total of 49 deaths among district residents related to COVID-19.
In the neighboring Two Rivers Public Health District, a total of eight new cases were recorded in Kearney County, three were recorded in Harlan County and two were recorded in Franklin County for Monday through Wednesday. The district also includes Buffalo, Phelps, Dawson and Gosper counties outside the Hastings Tribune’s coverage area.
Bever, the South Heartland official, put recent tallies of new cases in her district into perspective and called on residents to keep up their precautions to thwart further local spread of the virus.
“Last week the district saw an average of 23 positive tests per day,” she said. “This week, to date, we are averaging 18.4 cases per day. Over the past three days we averaged 24 positive tests per day. Our goal for low community spread is an average of four or fewer cases per day.”
While vaccination efforts are moving forward as expeditiously as possible, Bever said, the project is going to take time — and people need to remain on guard against the virus, avoiding crowds, close contact with non-household members, and confined spaces that aren’t well ventilated.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is still not widely available, so we need to continue to protect others and ourselves.” she said. “We need to continue to practice prevention, using all of the tools we have. We need to stay home when we have symptoms, wash our hands frequently, keep 6 feet way from people we don’t live with, wear our masks to protect ourselves and others, and get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is our turn.”