CRETE, Neb. (KMTV) — While Douglas and Sarpy Counties have only recently expanded their vaccination efforts to include those 55 and older, parts of rural Nebraska are already vaccinating people over the age of 16 and 18.
Public Health Solutions Health Department, which represents Filmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, and Thayer counties took appointments to vaccinate all residents 18 and older. According to the health department's Facebook, appointments filled up quickly.
Two Rivers Public Health Department, which represents seven counties including Buffalo, Dawson and Kearney, had a mass vaccination clinic Thursday. It took both appointments and walk-ins.
"We're thrilled to be able to offer the COVID vaccine to anyone 16 years of age and older," said Two Rivers Healthcare Collation Coordinator Chris Fankhauser.
The health department said they have come a long way in vaccine allocation and now have enough to offer it to all eligible residents.
"When [vaccinations] first started out back in December, the entire region with Two Rivers, South Heartland, Central District and Loup Basin only got what we call a 'pizza box' and that was only 975 doses for all four health departments. Now that has increased exponentially," Fankhauser said.
Supply has increased to the point where the health department has been able to vaccinate 50% of those 65 and older. In Buffalo County alone that number is about 70%.
"So it's not that people aren't wanting it," Fankhauser said.
The health department credits their swift vaccination efforts to their small population size.
To compare, the total population of the seven counties that Two Rivers represents is nearly 95,000 people. That is all age groups combined. Douglas County alone has around 135,000 residents just over the age of 55.
"They have so many people. And there are so many people that want the vaccine and I don't know if you want to say that we're lucky that we don't have the population issues, because there are benefits of living in every single part of the state," Fankhauser said.
Both Public Health Solutions and Two Rivers are only vaccinating residents that belong to their coverage area. They hope no one tries to beat the system and travel over from larger counties to try to get a vaccine.
"We want to make sure that the vaccine that was allocated for residents of Two Rivers actually goes to Two Rivers residents," Fankhauser said.
The state's goal of vaccinating everyone over the ages of 16 and 18, depending on which vaccine, is early May.