Panhandle doctor and rancher addresses Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in the area

With the Panhandle trailing the rest of the state in vaccine rollout, local doctors address fears surrounding the vaccine.
Tuesday, May 11th 2021, 9:04 AM CDT

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (KNEP) - As Nebraska’s vaccination rate nears 50%, only about one third of Panhandle adults have been vaccinated ranking the local health district among the state’s slowest in vaccine rollout. Meanwhile, the Panhandle Public Health District (PPHD) says available doses are going unclaimed and vaccine hesitancy is a big part of the problem.

Dr. Bruce Forney, a local rancher and Panhandle doctor for nearly 45 years, joined the PPHD’s weekly Covid-19 briefing Monday to address the vaccine reluctance he has noticed among his patients and the community. In one of his key points, the doctor reminded young adults they are not immune to the disease, though they have been signing up for the vaccine at slower rates than their older counterparts.

“A recent local newspaper article shared a story of a young individual that’s been in the hospital for months showing how devastating the virus can be to even relatively young people,” Dr. Forney said. “While people believe this to be a disease of primarily older people, it’s not exclusive to them.”

The PPHD says vaccine rollout has slowed since the state went into vaccinating younger groups. Health officials say the lag may be in part because working adults have more trouble carving out time to go get vaccinated. In most cases, however, health officials say younger groups express less concern over contracting the virus and that, for them, getting vaccinated may not feel worth it.

Still, Dr. Forney says he has seen the Covid-19 infection have long-lasting effects, even in his younger patients.

“It isn’t that, if you get this and get over it, that you have the same capabilities that you had before,” Dr. Forney said. “But Covid can involve the brain, the kidneys, the lungs, many different body organs.”

The doctor also addressed members of his own ag community -- urging fellow farmers and ranchers to go get vaccinated.

“My farm-ranch compadres, who, you know, I admire their independence. But they’ll lose that independence if they lose the strength in their legs, the air in their lungs, and [have] the fog in their brains,” Dr. Forney said. “I’m not trying to scare people. I’m just trying to encourage people to please consider getting vaccinated.”