- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Nevada health officials said that nearly 26,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines - about 16% of the state’s initial December allocation - have been administered and they announced plans to move people older than 75 to the next tier of its distribution plan.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state had experienced relatively few challenges in distributing vaccines to hospitals, county health departments and pharmacies.

Unlike other states, Nevada began immunizing residents of skilled nursing facilities on Dec. 21 and plans to administer doses at assisted living facilities as soon as next week.

“So far, we’ve seen smooth deliveries and the successful rollout of the complex process to distribute vaccine doses,” the governor said at a news conference.

The federal government initially allocated 164,150 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Nevada for December. The state expected the doses to be enough to vaccinate most people designated as part of its first distribution tier - including residents of skilled nursing facilities, hospital staff and other frontline health workers.



But on Dec. 18, the federal government alerted Nevada and 12 other states that it would provide thousands fewer doses than initially planned. Sisolak called the change “disruptive and baffling.”

Nevada’s tracking system suggests the majority of first-tier doses remain to be administered, but Shannon Bennett, an immunization program manager in Nevada’s public health department, said the state had likely administered doses to many more individuals. Delays in reporting to WebIZ, the system used to track vaccines, likely skew the data, she said.

“I think what we’re seeing is simply a data lag,” Bennett said. “These vaccinators in our local communities that are responsible for inputting that data into Nevada WebIZ are also managing the storage and handling of a new vaccine and logistics.”

Amid scrutiny over the nation’s slow vaccine rollout, health officials in other states, including Virginia, have pointed to similar reporting delays.

Bennett said Nevada planned to revise its vaccination plan to include people 75 and older in its second distribution tier and begin giving them the vaccine “concurrently” while it finishes vaccinating first-tier healthcare workers.

However, the state doesn’t plan to depart from U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines like Texas and Florida. Both states revised plans in order to vaccinate older people more quickly.

To make sure delivery and administration of vaccines remains smooth, Bennett said Nevada would tailor the rollout to meet the needs of different parts of the state, as it starts giving the shots to additional tiers of the population and asking residents to return to complete the two-dose vaccination regimen.

“Some regions of the state may move into the next tier sooner than others, based on factors such as population size and vaccine demands,” she said.

The move will allow the state to differentiate between rural counties allocated hundreds of vaccine doses and populous counties allocated tens of thousands. In Clark County, home to Las Vegas, Southern Nevada Health District has said it had received 47,200 initial vaccine doses and administered about 13,000, or roughly 29%.

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Reno-Sparks area have received a first dose. Roughly 30,000 healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities in the county are designated Tier 1.

“I think we are doing fairly well here,” Dick told reporters Wednesday.

Dick said the county would begin administering vaccinations to individuals designated as Tier 2 - including essential workers and residents 75 and older - around Jan. 25. But he cautioned the general population that it would likely not receive the vaccine until late spring or early summer.

“Tier 2 has close to 200,000 in it. It is going to be a big one to work through. We estimate we’ll be getting to Tier 3 by early spring. And Tier 4 may be late spring, early summer,” he said.

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Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.

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