KEARNEY — The Two Rivers Public Health Department is one of two public health departments that lead the state in the percentage of its residents vaccinated so far against COVID-10.
As of this morning, 28.6% of the population in the Two Rivers’ seven counties older than 16 had been vaccinated. That includes shots given by Two Rivers and at pharmacies, physicians offices and sites that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
The Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department in southeastern Nebraska is also at the top of the statewide vaccination list.
Two Rivers noted that 71.1% of its residents aged 65 years or older have been fully vaccinated, including 80% of seniors in Buffalo County, and two-thirds of seniors in Dawson, Phelps and Kearney counties. In Harlan, Franklin and Gosper counties, more than 50% of that age group is vaccinated.
Women account for more than 60% of fully vaccinated people in the Two Rivers region. The gender gap is especially pronounced among women and men aged 20-60 years — with 61% of women and 39% of men in that category vaccinated — but this may be because more women are employed in health care and education, both special occupational groups that were vaccinated earlier this winter.
“We are hopeful that this gap will close in the coming weeks as the general population catches up,” said Aravind Menon, epidemiologist at Two Rivers.
Of the Two Rivers’ population of 97,132, some 76,002 people are aged 16 and older and eligible for the vaccine. Vaccines for children and teens are in clinical trials but are not yet ready for federal approval and distribution.
Vaccinations began late last year for frontline health care workers and residents and staff members at long-term care facilities. Gradually, clinics broadened to include people older than 65, people with high-risk medical conditions and people with occupations that put them in contact with the public, including educators, factory workers and others.
Immunizations given in Phelps and Dawson counties increased by 90% and 67%, respectively, from February to March. Two Rivers held mass vaccination clinics in those counties to get more people vaccinated.
Seniors also received more vaccines in February and March because frontline health care workers got priority for the first vaccines earlier this winter. Seniors and those with high-risk health conditions came next.
Late last month, vaccines became available for anyone aged 16 years and older. A steady number of younger people have had their first doses and should be fully vaccinated within a month. Both vaccines currently given by Two Rivers and the FRRP — Moderna, for people age 18 and older, and Pfizer, for those 16 and older — require 28 and 21 days, respectively, between shots.
“Since this is a larger age group that has had limited access until now, we expect to see a surge in registration in our health district and at health care facilities,” Menon said.
A third type of COVID vaccine, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, requires just one shot, but it has not been available widely here, and its efficacy rate is slightly lower than the other two. Right now, it is available at two pharmacies, Valley Pharmacy and Medicap Pharmacy.
It is not being offered at the Two Rivers clinics because Two Rivers receives vaccine weekly from the CDC and cannot request the manufacturer. Uncle Sam has sent primarily Moderna and Pfizer vaccine.
Updated figures this morning show 52,752 vaccinations given to date, 5,136 first doses and 21,740 people now fully vaccinated in Two Rivers area.
As of Tuesday, the percentage of residents vaccinated in each Two Rivers county, in order from the most to the fewest, was:
- Franklin County, 35.9
- Kearney County, 34.8
- Harlan County, 30.5
- Phelps County, 29.8
- Gosper County, 28.6
- Buffalo County, 28
- Dawson County, 26.4