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Mass vaccinations to begin in Southern Nevada, officials say

Updated January 6, 2021 - 10:03 pm

The Southern Nevada Health District, which has administered roughly one-third of the COVID-19 vaccine it has received to date, is on the brink of a mass vaccination campaign, officials said Wednesday.

The district has received about 70,000 doses of vaccine and distributed 21,000 doses, officials said, with the bulk so far going to acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“Most of that vaccine was received in the last two weeks,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer for the health district, said during an afternoon online briefing. “Therefore, we are now in the initial phase of really going into a more active, and mass, vaccination campaign beyond the hospital setting.”

Efforts also are underway to vaccinate others in the so-called priority Tier 1, including staff at behavioral centers and medical practices, Leguen said. First responders also are in Tier 1, some of whom received their first shots at University Medical Center last week.

There was no word Wednesday on when Tier 2 vaccinations — which includes those 75 and older — might begin in Clark County.

“As you know, we would love nothing more than to be able to provide set timeframes for you to provide to your readers,” district spokesman Jennifer Sizemore said in an email late Wednesday. “You can reassure them that we will provide updates about the distribution timelines as we go, and as soon as we have details we will be releasing that information.”

The district plans to set up four or five points of dispensing, or PODs, for distributing vaccine. Each POD will be able to vaccinate as many as 1,000 people per day, said clinical services director JoAnn Rupiper.

She estimated that the district would vaccinate 500 people Wednesday, adding, “We’re expecting to ramp that up fairly quickly.”

“And we’re expecting to have four or five PODs at a time,” she continued. “So that number is likely to increase a lot.”

The district is dispensing vaccine for eligible groups at both its headquarters and at Western High School. The sites are not open to the public.

Rupiper said that the approach to vaccinating those 75 and older would be multifaceted.

“So 75 and up is as diverse group as any other group,” Rupiper said. “What we need to think about is how do they get the other vaccines and other types of health care. So it looks like at this point that our pharmacies will have some capacity to address those needs for that group.”

Some large health care providers also will be receiving the vaccine to give to their patients.

Teachers also are in Tier 2, with prioritization subject to change based on new federal guidance and changing local conditions. The district is making plans to vaccinate some 40,000 to 45,000 people within the Clark County School District, Rupiper said.

Rupiper acknowledged that efforts to vaccinate school district personnel here are lagging behind counties such as Washoe, which are poised to begin the shots.

“As far as Washoe County being further along, of course they are because they have less people,” Rupiper said. “So that’s why we’re a little slower … and because frankly we just have more people to vaccinate … but I think we’re … not too far off.”

Teachers will be a priority, she said, because “we do want to get children back in school.”

More information about COVID-19 vaccinations can be found at snhd.info/covid.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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