Wisconsin Health News
The first COVID-19 vaccinations are expected in Wisconsin soon.
Wisconsin is set to receive 49,725 first doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine after it receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, Stephanie Schauer, Department of Health Services Division of Public Health Immunization Program manager, told reporters Monday.
And DHS also expects Wisconsin to receive a first allocation of 16,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this month once it's approved, a spokeswoman said. Further allocations of vaccines doses would arrive in the following weeks, she said.
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the vaccine has not arrived in Wisconsin yet, but they’ll start giving doses sometime this month.
“Distributing COVID-19 vaccine is the most significant public health undertaking of our lifetimes,” Willems Van Dijk told reporters. “It will require both preparedness and adaptability and patience.”
Wisconsin will use a “hub-and-spoke” model to disseminate the Pfizer vaccines, which will arrive in batches to hubs like health systems in each of the state’s healthcare emergency response coalition regions, Willems Van Dijk said.
Those hubs will be equipped with the ultra-cold storage needed to store the vaccine. Once at the hubs, vaccines will head to smaller clinics around the area.
The Moderna vaccine, when approved and available, will be sent directly to vaccinators since it doesn’t require ultra-cold storage, Willems Van Dijk said.
DHS plans to prioritize front-line healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, followed by high-risk groups. Then the general public will be eligible.
Willems Van Dijk said it’ll take months to vaccinate everyone in Wisconsin, meaning people will have to continue using preventive measures for some time.
She predicted summer or fall would be a “really realistic goal” for moving beyond COVID-19 precautions, like mask wearing and social distancing.
“I know everybody’s excited and we’d love to take our masks off by Valentine’s Day, but that’s not just going to happen,” she said.
She also said they’re working on a contract for additional vaccinators, given that healthcare providers and public health workers are “deeply embroiled” in responding to the pandemic.
Willems Van Dijk said they’re assessing who has capacity and where additional workforce might be needed.
The UW System recently offered tuition credit to nursing students who help vaccinate. Willems Van Dijk said that Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard could help bolster efforts. Walgreens and CVS will provide vaccinators in long-term care facilities, she added.