Area COVID-19 deaths reach 74; J&J vaccine paused over blood clot concerns

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

McCOOK, Neb. -- Some 9,300 Southwest Nebraskans have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and 74 deaths have been reported in the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department district.

The department received 1000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 200 doses of Johnson & Johnson last week, but today authorities have paused administration of the latter over concerns about a rare and severe type of blood clot diagnosed in a Nebraska resident.

“Vaccine safety is closely monitored by healthcare providers and local, state, and federal partners. While only six instances of this severe clotting event have been identified among approximately 6.8 million who have received the J&J/Janssen vaccine across the US, the pause is a transparent and deliberate decision to allow time for a thorough review and investigation,” according to a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services release.

There are no plans to pause the use of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which should be used in place of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine until further notice, according to the release.

SWNPHD and local partners continue to work to vaccinate Nebraska residents age 18 years and older, with a goal of 70% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19.

SWNPHD reported nine new cases of COVID-19 from March 29 to April 12. Keith County – 3, Perkins County – 2 and Red Willow County – 4, bringing the total number of cases to 3788. There was one death due to COVID-19 in SWNPHD in the month of March; however, 14 additional deaths have been reported to SWNPHD as a result of an audit that was conducted of the COVID-19 cases during the fall wave and early 2021, according to the SWNPHD release

All deaths due to COVID-19 are submitted to state health officials and then must be positively confirmed before being reported to local health districts, which can lead to significant delays. By month, the following additional deaths were identified: October - 3, November - 3, December - 4, January - 1, February - 1, and March - 1. This brings the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in southwest Nebraska to 74.

SWNPHD pointed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Myth and Fact Sheet: Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?

No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. All of the vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and a sign that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services has identified around 200 cases of variant strains of COVID-19 in the state. Other areas of the US have seen spikes in case numbers due to these variants, and state public health officials are anticipating a similar increase in the near future. SWNPHD encourages residents to use the skills they have learned to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and take advantage of the extra layer of protection that is available from the COVID vaccines. While the effectiveness of the 3 currently approved vaccines against these new strains is still being studied, good results have been seen in Nebraska’s long-term care facilities and nursing homes that have high rates of residents and staff vaccinated. There are very few cases of COVID-19 in these facilities, and none have caused large-scale outbreaks like were seen prior to the vaccines becoming available.

Nebraska residents can register to receive COVID-19 vaccine at, the official waiting list for the nine-county health district. Currently, persons are being vaccinated in one week or less. If you do not have computer access, please call 308-345-4223 to get on the waiting list.

The statewide COVID-19 Risk Dial, based on the amount of hospital capacity used for COVID patients, is currently in the green level. SWNPHD continues to recommend wearing a mask in public, washing hands and surfaces often, and avoiding the 3 C’s: crowded spaces, close contact, and confined spaces. Per CDC guidelines, those who have been vaccinated do not need to mask when around others who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

COVID-19 information can be found at You can also follow SWNPHD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. SWNPHD serves Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Perkins, and Red Willow counties. SWNPHD is located at 404 West 10th St (1 block north of Arby’s) in McCook and can be reached by calling 308-345-4223.

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