As Vaccination Rates Decline in Nebraska, COVID Expert Says the Hard Work Is Ahead

April 28, 2021, 3 p.m. ·

Dr. Mark Rupp with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. (Photo from Zoom)

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Over the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 vaccinations in Nebraska has decreased by 38%, from almost 21,000 a day to the current level of just under 13,000 daily shots. The decline is concerning to one disease expert, who thinks a number of factors are leading to the slowdown.

Dr. Mark Rupp is an infectious disease expert with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and said some of the decline in vaccination rates was to be expected, with older Nebraskans and many others who were anxious to get the shots at the head of the line when the doses became available.

Now, things aren’t so easy.

Two weeks ago, more than 200,000 Nebraskans were vaccinated. Last week, less than half of that got shots.

“Unfortunately, many issues around this pandemic have been polarized and politicized and that is most unfortunate,” Rupp said. “This really is, first and foremast, a public health issue and it’s not a political issue as to whether people should wear masks or whether freedom should dictate that they don’t get a vaccine.”

But for many, their decision to skip the shots has nothing to do with politics. They’re more worried about how the vaccines might affect their health. Rupp understands why some might be worried, but said the vaccines have been thoroughly vetted.

“They’re very safe. We’ve given over 100,000,000 doses throughout the country so we know the side effect profile very, very well and it’s really in everyone’s best interest to get vaccinated,” he said.

Rupp said so-called herd immunity is now more of a moving target than a solid number.

“Now that some of these variants are coming onboard that are more transmissible, we’re going to need a higher proportion of the population to get vaccinated in order to get to that herd immunity that might be at 70%, 80%. I’ve seen numbers as high as 85% or 90%.”

He said overall, the state has actually done very well with its vaccination efforts, with more than 50% of the adult population vaccinated. He said the challenge now is to convince everyone else that vaccines will help get things back to normal.

NET reporter Will Bauer contributed to this story.