Nevada officials anticipate getting their first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government mid-month, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday during a news conference.
“There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel,” Sisolak said.
First to be vaccinated will be hospital and health care workers, law enforcement and correctional facility staff, and long term care facility staff and residents. In all, the so-called “tier one” population amounts to some 173,000 Nevadans, according to Shannon Bennett, Immunization Program Manager for the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
The second tier will include essential workers such as grocery clerks.
State officials say Nevadans won’t see large scale vaccination coverage until spring.
The size of Nevada’s initial allocation remains unknown, officials say. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday his state’s initial shipment will total 170,000 and is based on adult population.
The Federal Drug Administration is expected to meet December 10th on emergency authorization requests for two vaccines, one from Pfizer and the other from Moderna.
“From there we expect things to move quickly,” said Candace McDaniel, chief of the Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness for the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
Nevada is among a handful of states that have engaged a board of experts to perform an independent review of the vaccine’s safety.
“The goal of the coalition is to provide Nevadans with an additional layer of confidence,” Sisolak said, adding it’s not anticipated to delay availability of the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, while the Moderna vaccine does not, rendering it more suitable for rural distribution, health officials said.
Vaccines from both manufacturers require that a second dose be administered within a month of the first. Despite extensive challenges the state experienced obtaining components for COVID-19 testing, Sisolak said he’s certain the federal government will make second doses available, allowing the state to vaccinate as many people as possible with each allocation rather than retain half for the second dose.
“We’re not stockpiling and we’re confident we’re going to get subsequent doses,” he said.
Officials say they anticipate weekly allocations, once a vaccine is approved. In the interim, Sisolak encouraged residents to take standard precautions.
“We are not seeing a downward trajectory in any of the metrics we are tracking,” the governor said, noting 16 of 17 counties have been flagged for elevated transmission of COVID-19. “In fact, we continue to see increases.”
“Daily hospitalizations are at an all time high,” he said. “The wildfire of community spread continues to grow. Almost every day we are breaking the previous record.”
Sisolak says he’ll be “forced to take stronger actions” if cases do not decline.
“We cannot overwhelm our health care system and put countless lives in danger,” he said.
Sisolak says Nevadans who “gathered outside your immediate household” for Thanksgiving should assume they may have been exposed and may be at “severe risk” depending on age.
While the governor cautioned against attending large gatherings, he stopped short of advising potential visitors to follow CDC guidelines to stay put for the holidays, citing “robust mitigation” measures in Nevada resorts.
The governor also gave a “shout out” to those on the front lines — hospital and health care workers, the National Guard, and grocery and restaurant workers.
He chastised President Donald Trump for tweeting that a field hospital at Renown Medical Center in Reno was fake.
“The hospital is real. The comments that were made by the President of the United States were not helpful,” he said.