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'Huge mistake': Vaccine priority confusion for telecommunication workers

Multiple counties vaccinating telecom workers
Posted at 6:22 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-21 21:05:54-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Governor Ricketts expressed his frustration Friday after finding out that the Douglas County Health Department has been vaccinating telecommunication workers, like those working for Cox Communications, even though they do not belong in group 1B.

"That's a huge mistake on Douglas County's part," Gov. Ricketts said. "We told them weeks ago that telecoms were not part of utilities and for whatever reason, they decided to go forward with telecom companies. That is outside the guidelines, they're making a mistake and that's actually taking away vaccines from those vulnerable people who were trying to focus on."

On the state's website, at the end of February they had prioritized "critical infrastructure" in group 1b of vaccinations. Now, the state has updated their prioritization list to be more specific when mentioning critical infrastructure, labeling only utility workers like those working with power, water and gas and not telecommunication workers.

The Douglas County Health Department said that update is where that miscommunication happened and that other health departments are, in fact, vaccinating telecommunication workers as well.

The Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department says they've been vaccinating these employees as well.

In a statement provided to 3 News Now, Cox said they "support the Department of Homeland Security guidelines for critical infrastructure and essential workers, which has been adopted in many of the states where Cox operates."

"We're following up with Douglas County in regards to why they decided to go outside the guidelines to do telecom workers. I think it was a misunderstanding on their part," Gov. Ricketts said.

In a statement the health department said, "We will leave no vaccine on the shelf and strive to fill every available clinic appointment."

However, this is happening as many with serious health conditions have still not received their vaccines.

On Monday, Nebraska will move onto Phase 2A of vaccinations statewide and will include people 50 and older. However, in Douglas County, only people who are 60 and older will qualify for the vaccine due to not having enough supply to expand into a younger cohort.