Gov. Ricketts Highlights Start of Coronavirus Vaccinations; Calls on Nebraskans to Donate Blood

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12/16/2020

Media Contacts: 
Taylor Gage, (402) 471-1970
Justin Pinkerman, (402) 471-1967


Governor's Media Release:

LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts held a press briefing at the State Capitol to provide an update on the State's response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The Governor reported that coronavirus-related hospitalizations have declined over 30% since November 20th.  Nebraska is currently in the “yellow" phase of its pandemic response plan. 

Gov. Ricketts also shared news that over 1,700 Nebraskans had already received their coronavirus vaccination as of this morning.  The initial doses have gone to frontline healthcare workers such as critical care physicians and nurses, ER staff, and people who handle infectious materials at hospitals.  So far, 13 hospitals have administered vaccines. 

Angie Ling, Incident Commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), joined the Governor to overview the State's COVID-19 vaccination plan and the work being done to implement it.

Rabbi Mendel Katzman, Executive Director of One Chabad in Omaha, shared a Hanukkah reflection.  The Hanukkah celebration, known as the Festival of Lights, began on December 10th and continues through December 18th.

Weysan Dun, community volunteer leader with the American Red Cross, emphasized the ongoing need for blood donations.  He also informed Nebraskans about upcoming opportunities to give blood.

Gov. Ricketts: Coronavirus Vaccination

  • Nebraska has received its first shipments of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.  As of 9:00 am this morning, 1,746 Nebraskans already have been vaccinated.
  • Moderna's vaccine may be approved by the FDA as early as Friday, December 18th.  If approved as expected, the first injections of this vaccine will begin next week.
    • As a reminder, both vaccines require two doses, spaced a few weeks apart.
  • We've previously announced our groups prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1A:
    • Healthcare personnel (hospitals, home health care, pharmacies, EMS, outpatient, public health)
    • Long-term care facility residents and staff
  • As Nebraska receives more vaccine doses in the coming months, the amount of detailed planning required increases.
  • DHHS requested personnel to support its effort to gather information from local agencies and organizations that have workers in priority groups.
  • Starting this week, the Nebraska National Guard has activated 17 personnel to support DHHS.
  • They will collect information to help prioritize where tens of thousands of future doses go, following the plans made by DHHS for Phase 1B of our vaccination plan.
    • This is to ensure we get the right number of vaccine doses to frontline workers and priority groups in order to have the greatest benefit throughout the state.

Angie Ling: Coronavirus Vaccination

  • The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine arrived to Nebraska on Monday.  By the end of today, all 15,600 doses should be in the hands of hospitals receiving the first allocation.
  • Federal agencies are reviewing the Moderna vaccine this week.  If approved, Nebraska is ready to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine early next week.
    • 32,400 doses of Moderna's vaccine have been allocated to Nebraska for next week.  These doses will be distributed to 112 hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and local health departments.
  • The U.S. vaccine safety system has a rigorous process to ensure safety.  The Pfizer vaccine endured a significant amount of scrutiny during clinical trials in which more than 40,000 individuals participated.
  • The Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective in a phase 3 clinical trial.  Comparatively, the flu vaccine is usually 40-60% effective.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus and cannot give someone the coronavirus.
  • Potential side effects for the coronavirus vaccine are similar to those experienced by people who get a flu shot.
    • Soreness at the injection site, fever, headaches, and body aches that usually go away within 24 hours.
    • Unless symptoms worsen, there is no need to seek medical care.

Rabbi Mendel Katzman: Hanukkah

  • Around the year 140 B.C.E., the story of Hanukkah occurred.
    • A tyrant, pretending God to be non-existent, challenged those faithful people who were practicing their religion, praying, and connecting to the One above.
    • The few godly people prevailed over the many who attacked them.
  • Hanukkah is really the only Jewish practice that takes place outdoors.  The Seder and other practices happen inside our homes or houses of worship.
  • Likewise, the only time we pray outside—aside from Hanukkah—is when there's a plague.
  • We're all united as one nation under God. We pray together that...
    • All of those affected by the coronavirus will receive healing.
    • All of those who are healthy will remain healthy.
    • We together will create more ways to connect with God and to be charitable to our neighbors.

Weysan Dun: Blood Donation

  • This season is traditionally very challenging in terms of maintaining adequate blood supplies in our state and country. 
    • This is due to the holidays; winter weather; and the prevalence of cold, flu, and other seasonal illnesses in the community.
  • We're asking Nebraskans to step up to donate blood and sponsor blood drives.
  • A shortage of blood may affect people who need emergency surgery, victims of accidents, and cancer patients in need of periodic transfusion.
  • One single blood donation can potentially save three lives.
  • The pandemic has caused the cancellation of many blood drives.  In Nebraska alone, we've seen over 1,300 blood drives cancelled since the beginning of the pandemic, leading to the projected loss of around 35,000 units of collected blood.
  • Blood drives are conducted with the highest standards of safety and infection control.  All staff and donors are subjected to health screenings, everyone wears a mask during the process, social distancing is maintained, and there's an aggressive program of disinfection at each collection station.
  • The American Red Cross tests all blood donations for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.
  • Individuals interested in donating blood are encouraged to go to and make an appointment to donate.  Appointments are required in order to maintain social distancing.  Organizations interested in sponsoring a blood drive can also submit an application on the website.

Video from today's press conference is available by clicking here.


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