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Clark County may not reach vaccination goal to reopen by June 1

The chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District said Monday that Clark County might not be vaccinating people fast enough to remove capacity limits and social distancing requirements by June 1, a goal set for the state by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Dr. Fermin Leguen said in a media briefing that as of Friday about 50 percent of eligible Clark County residents 16 and older, or 919,000 people, had gotten at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine. Clark County government has set a threshold of 60 percent before fully reopening, which amounts to 1,097,955 first doses, according to the health district.

In an interview following the briefing, Leguen said that Clark County might not reach that threshold by June 1. Weeks ago, 60 percent had looked like a conservative goal by that date based on the speed at which people were then getting vaccinated.

“But unfortunately, what we have seen in the last three weeks is a decline in the demand for vaccine,” he said following a briefing on the opening Tuesday of a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination and testing site at Texas Station in North Las Vegas.

Leguen attributes the decline in part to fears surrounding a serious blood-clotting condition that has been identified in a small number of people across the country, including an 18-year-old woman in Clark County, after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

With half the population having begun the vaccination process, “Now we are dealing with the second half of the population who are not … so actively looking for the vaccine” and are taking a wait-and-see approach, he said.

When will we hit 60 percent?

Leguen said he could not estimate when Clark County would reach the 60 percent threshold without first gauging the community’s response to smaller-scale, more targeted vaccination efforts that also are underway.

About 54,000 people in Clark County got their first shot in the week ending May 5, according to health district data.

Roughly 179,000 more people need to get a first dose for the county to reach the target, the data shows. At the current pace, vaccinations in the county would fall just short.

It’s unclear, though, how vaccinations administered by the Veterans Administration might affect the calculation.

Nor is it known whether county officials might consider removing business capacity limits, which are currently at 80 percent, and social distancing requirements by June 1, even without reaching the 60 percent threshold.

“Public health is our priority and together with our community partners we are working hard to meet that threshold,” county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said in an email. “We will continue to make COVID-19 vaccinations widely available and accessible to the public through clinics and special events, and we will evaluate to see where we are at the end of the month.”

Meghin Delaney, a spokeswoman for the governor, said local officials will make the call.

“While the governor set a statewide goal for a full reopening to 100 percent by June 1, he also transitioned authority over COVID mitigation measures to local governments effective May 1,” she said. “Ultimately, the counties have the authority from May 1 onward to determine the mitigation measures that are appropriate for their local area and communities.”

Clark County has been working closely with the state immunization team and local partners to make the vaccine accessible to its residents, she said.

Texas Station site

The county could see an uptick in vaccinations after the opening Tuesday of a drive-thru vaccination site at Texas Station, off Rancho Drive at Lake Mead Boulevard, that officials hope will appeal to residents in the northern part of the valley and the immediate neighborhood.

“We haven’t offered (before) a large-scale site like this, in this part of the valley or Clark County,” North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black said at Monday’s briefing. “From an accessibility and convenience standpoint, I think this really does bring value to the community.”

The site will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until noon, offering both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also referred to as the Janssen vaccine. The site will be open for three weeks for first doses and another three weeks for second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The site will be the second large drive-thru site in the valley. The first, which opened last week at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is averaging about 350 vaccinations per day and has the capacity to do 1,000, the health district’s Greg Cassell said. The convention center site is currently scheduled to close June 19.

For the Texas Station site, which also has a capacity of 1,000 shots per day, upward of 500 people have made appointments each day this week, a number that Cassell hopes will grow.

To book an appointment, visit www.snhd.info/covid-vaccine or call 800-401-0946.

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

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