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Vaccinations begin for those 70 years old, older in Clark County

Updated January 13, 2021 - 7:42 pm

Clark County residents 70 and older can finally queue up to get the COVID-19 vaccine, though the line may be long.

The Southern Nevada Health District will begin to vaccinate people in this age group Thursday, district officials said at an online news briefing Wednesday.

Meanwhile, other agencies across Clark County have begun to schedule appointments for older adult residents as the local vaccination campaign ramps up to vaccinate 40,000 to 45,000 residents per week.

“I’m totally convinced that we can do this safely and effectively for our population,” said JoAnn Rupiper, the health district’s director of clinical services.

The health district is vaccinating those in the 70-plus age group by appointment only. To make an appointment, Rupiper directed those wanting to be inoculated to the district’s website: covid.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/vaccine/distribution.

But attempts to access the website late Wednesday were met with an error message. The website states that because of high volumes of people seeking appointments the site might be slow to load and that visitors should check back frequently.

Also on Thursday, the county will open its first large-scale vaccination site — or “mega-POD,” an acronym for “point of dispensing” — at Cashman Center with a “soft launch,” Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck said during the briefing.

“We are starting with vaccinations of our public safety workers to get our processes in place, and expect to be able to expand to additional groups soon,” Steinbeck said in a follow-up news release.

First public mass vaccination site

The Cashman site is closed to the public Thursday and appointments are not available, district spokesman Jennifer Sizemore said in an email.

North Las Vegas Councilman Scott Black, chair of the health district board, said he learned Tuesday that the site would be used to vaccinate those 70 and older. It was not clear when these vaccinations at Cashman might begin.

“We felt compelled to expedite access to that age group through the public distribution because of their representation of people in the hospital,” Black said in an interview.

A second large-scale site will open within a week or two at the Las Vegas Convention Center, officials said.

The health district lists three appointment-only sites for those over 70 — at Cashman Field, health district headquarters and Roseman University of Health Sciences’ Summerlin campus — as well as six sites for front-line essential workers. It was unclear Wednesday exactly what kinds of workers that covers, though the website states that those who work directly with COVID-19 patients will be given preference.

To further distribute vaccine, the state is coordinating with area pharmacies to also begin administering the vaccine to older residents, officials said.

The focus of the vaccination campaign so far has been on hospital employees and other front-line medical workers, followed by residents and staff at long-term care facilities. As of Monday, nearly 30,000 doses of vaccine had been given in Clark County since inoculations got underway Dec. 14. The district has received 70,450 doses.

On Monday, Nevada officials announced that they were adjusting their prioritization system so that those 70 and older would be concurrently vaccinated along with key occupational groups, such as public safety workers.

On Wednesday, Caleb Cage, who directs the state’s COVID-19 response, said there were no plans to immediately lower the threshold to 65, a recommendation made by the Trump administration this week.

“I think it’s prudent right now to stay the course … in part … based on the inconsistent and unstable approach and guidance that we received from the federal government to date,” he said.

Before receiving their shots, residents will be required to show identification and proof of residency but not of citizenship, district officials said. Residents also will go through a screening process to ensure that they are medically eligible to receive the vaccine. For example, those who have received another vaccination in the past 14 days cannot be inoculated, Rupiper said.

Other venues for vaccine

Meanwhile, the city of North Las Vegas announced Wednesday that it is accepting appointments and will begin inoculating those 70 and older next week.

Residents in the age group can sign up now using an online preregistration form at VaxNLV.com. Those needing assistance with the form can call 702-342-8417.

Enrollment for older adults will be open until Friday evening. The city will then begin preregistration for the general public, according to a news release. The vaccinations are for city residents only.

Also, University Medical Center in Las Vegas has begun to take appointments for those 70 and older who wish to be vaccinated.

The appointments available online are limited to those 70 and older, first responders and health care workers. Late Wednesday, the website showed that appointments no longer were available.

“If you do not meet these criteria, UMC will not administer the vaccine, even if you have an appointment,” the hospital stated on its vaccine portal.

Although the public hospital has not promoted the opportunity to be vaccinated, it has spread via word of mouth among members of the public, said residents who had scheduled appointments.

Appointments can be made by visiting www.umcsn.com/COVIDvaccine. Those who require assistance scheduling an appointment can do so by calling 702-383-2619.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Michael Scott Davidson contributed to this report.

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