On Monday afternoon, Unified Command confirmed 232 more cases of COVID in the Panhandle, and the confirmation of ten additional deaths since last reporting Monday, December 21st.
The additional COVID-related deaths brings the total deaths in the Panhandle to 114. The deaths are being announced as follows:
- Grant County female in her 70s
- Morrill County
- Female in her 70s
- Male in his 70s
- Scotts Bluff County
- One female in her 90s
- Five males: one in his 70s, two in their 80s, two in their 90s
- Sheridan County male in his 70s
The new cases include:
- Banner County – 4
- Box Butte County- 17
- Cheyenne County- 42
- Dawes County- 11
- Garden County-2
- Kimball County-11
- Morrill County- 8
- Scotts Bluff County- 121
- Sheridan County- 14
- Under Investigation – 2
Through Monday afternoon the Panhandle has seen 7,527 total cases, 14 active hospitalizations, a positivity rate over the prior week of 34.5% and a doubling time of 48 days from Nov. 9 through Dec. 27.
The Panhandle risk dial remained steady in the middle of the orange, or high category.
Dr. Kevin Reichmuth, Pulmonologist at Nebraska Pulmonology Specialties of Lincoln and Nebraska Army National Guard Colonel, joined the Panhandle briefing to outline the vaccine science and dispel circulating myths.
Reichmuth shared messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein-or even a piece of a protein-that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
The combination of several factors made it possible to increase the speed of vaccine development.
“The federal government’s commitment to a vaccine was spot-on, they overcame bureaucratic barriers towards important collaboration to efficiently move through each phase, allowing them to be ready,” said Dr. Reichmuth.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee meetings are on a specific schedule and they don’t normally adjust that schedule, but because we are in a pandemic, these emergency meetings moved quicker.
As cases were increasing so rapidly, separation and efficacy of the vaccine could be seen allowing the FDA to see safety data. It was easy to see the analysis in the interim and separation and efficacy in the vaccine allowing them to see what the FDA had set as the bar for achieving safety.
“The mRNA vaccines does not alter our DNA and it does not cause infertility. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine would not have endorsed this vaccine in reproductive age women if that was a concern, the COVID infection itself could cause infertility. Preventing the infection has multiple benefits, ” said Dr. Reichmuth.
He added, “The concern about Bell’s Palsy is actively being monitored, we are about two million vaccinations and there have been no spikes. In the Pfizer trial, there were four cases of Bell’s Palsy in the vaccination group and none in the placebo group. In the Moderna trial, it was three in the vaccination group and one in the placebo group. The bottom-line is that is not outside of the normal realm of Bell’s Palsy we would see in the population of about 15-20 cases per 100,000 people. In the Pfizer trial, that’s four cases out of 22,000 patients in the vaccination group and that’s not outside of what we would see normally.”
Reichmuth affirmed to-date, they have not seen cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome correlated with the vaccine and it continues to be actively monitored.
A full recording of Dr. Reichmuth’s presentation can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/ycj7mf3a or on PPHD’s website at: http://pphd.org/COVID-19.html. Please share with others to stay informed on important COVID vaccine updates.
To date, 830 people in the eligible populations have received the COVID vaccine in the Panhandle. This number will continue to increase with each weekly distribution to the eligible populations at the corresponding times.