Vegas vaccine site closing due to demand drop; new cases up

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Citing a drop in requests for COVID-19 vaccination appointments despite a rising number of new cases in Nevada, health officials in Las Vegas say they’ll close the mass vaccination site at Cashman Center on May 5.

Demand for shots remains high in Washoe County, where a new permanent vaccination and testing center is being built at the Reno Livestock Events Center, partly in anticipation of the need for follow-up booster shots in the future.

On Friday, state officials confirmed the Nevada resident among the six people who have suffered serious blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an 18-year-old woman who was vaccinated in Clark County. About 7 million people nationally have received the J&J vaccine.

The Cashman Center site that’s being closed doesn’t administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But incident commander Greg Cassell said the decline in numbers there might be partly attributable to concern over vaccine safety.

Health officials have paused use of the J&J vaccine while the rare but serious reactions are reviewed.

Dr. Michael Gardner of UNLV Medicine said the decline in appointment requests is primarily due to a large percentage of the population simply not wanting to get vaccinated.

State officials said Friday that 41.5% of Nevada’s population 16 and older has received the first vaccine dose and 26.8% are now fully vaccinated with a statewide total of 1.6 million doses administered.

However, the 14-day rolling average of new cases grew to 257 on Friday, the highest since the average of 261 reported March 14.

Nevada’s test positivity rate over the last 14 days also rose to 5.7%, the highest since 5.7% on March 13. It was at an all-time low of 4.2% on March 30.

State officials announced they will no longer be updating the Nevada COVID-19 dashboard on weekends, so larger than normal increases in the case count are expected on Mondays and Tuesdays.

In Reno, the Washoe County Health District recently cut back on accepting new appointments for vaccinations while transitioning to a new scheduling platform but anticipates returning to the normal 2,000 shots a day by this weekend.

Among other things, the new system will make it easier to track people who don’t show up for up for their scheduled second dose. But it required training more than 500 people to operate it.

As of Thursday, James English, operations chief for the county’s vaccination effort, said the district has administered more than 70,000 first doses “which is a huge lift here.” First and second doses combined have surpassed 110,000.

People who get their first dose next week will get their second at the new permanent structure expected to be fully operational by May 18. He said they also intend to use the site to administer flu vaccinations this fall.

Makers of the Pfizer vaccine announced this week they anticipate people who receive their two-dose shots will need to get a third booster shot to be fully vaccinated, most likely six to 12 months after their second one.

“We fully know that some sort of booster shot will have to be done. We don’t know the frequency,” he said. “That’s why we’re putting the investment in now for community so we can quickly ramp up and administer vaccine as necessary.”

Clark County officials said Thursday vaccines will continue to be administered at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other sites in the metro area. Cassell said the number of daily vaccinations at Cashman, a former convention venue, has dropped from 7,700 on April 13 to 2,000 on Thursday.

Staff at the Cashman site will be transferred to the Las Vegas Convention Center or placed on so-called strike teams that conduct vaccinations for harder-to-reach populations in neighborhoods.

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Sonner reported from Reno.