Nevada to vaccinate frontline medical workers first

Governor announces plan for once vaccine becomes available

Associated Press
October 27, 2020 - 5:00 am
Doctor fills injection syringe with vaccine

Meyer & Meyer/Getty Images

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — As the pandemic surges throughout the state, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday that the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines the state receives will go toward frontline medical workers and individuals at high risk of exposure.

Sisolak said he is confident in the Federal Drug Administration’s approval process and the state’s capacity to distribute a vaccine, despite fears about the possible politicization of the vaccine and uncertainty about when it will be made available. 

“There’s a lot of speculation, but there’s no definitive timeline for when one may be approved,” he said.

The state’s plan anticipates there will initially be a limited supply of vaccines and outlines a tiered priority system. The first available dosages will go to health care workers and vulnerable populations, including residents ages 65 or older. The second tier includes retail workers, teachers and some university staff. The third tier includes the incarcerated, individuals experiencing homelessness and people with underlying health conditions.

Nevada ultimately hopes to inoculate 80% of all residents against COVID-19 once a vaccine is available. That could be difficult, though, because of routine struggles to vaccinate its population. 

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that during last year’s flu season the state vaccinated only 44% of residents for influenza — 7% greater than the year prior — but still the lowest in the entire country. By contrast, Rhode Island vaccinated 61% of its residents for influenza during last year’s season.

Compounding the difficulty, the state has only received $1.8 million in federal relief dollars — or about 60 cents per resident — as part of the $200 million the CDC has allocated toward vaccine distribution. Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency’s director, estimates it will require from $5.5 to $6 billion to distribute a vaccine nationwide.

“We need to get resources to states now,” Redfield told Congress on Sept. 16.

Sisolak said he hoped Congress would eventually pass another relief package, but in its absence, is still confident in the state’s ability to distribute a vaccine. Before one becomes available, he urged residents to get flu shots in order to prevent Nevada’s hospitals from reaching capacity as they fill with coronavirus patients. Of the state’s hospital beds, 72% are currently occupied, including 77% in Clark County.