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Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccinations Up, But Demand Still Outpaces Supply

In Wisconsin, people age 16 and up with certain pre-existing conditions will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine starting Monday, March 22.
Antonio Diaz
In Wisconsin, more than two million people became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 22.

State health officials say 27% of Wisconsin residents have now received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 16% have completed their vaccine series. But demand for the shot continues to outpace vaccine supply in the state. That's even as some people in the hospitality industry are seeking to loosen health restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Vaccinations are increasing in Wisconsin. The State Department of Health Services (DHS) says 311,000 doses were administered last week, up more than 50% over mid-February.

This week also brought more people into the eligibility mix, those with certain medical conditions. Plus, the state is still trying to get a shot to more senior citizens and other previously-authorized Wisconsin residents.

Deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said there's a pretty consistent demand for 400,000 to 500,000 first doses per week, but the supply of new vaccine is less than 40% of the lower figure.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services / YouTube
Deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said COVID-19 vaccine demand in Wisconsin continues to outpace the supply.

"We're making great progress. But, we are not yet able to fulfill everybody's full request each week that they make it," said Willems Van Dijk.

Other states are reporting some vaccine-related travel within their borders, as people in high-demand large cities look to get shots in smaller communities with less demand. Willems Van Dijk said to the extent that's happening in Wisconsin, travelers getting vaccine supplied through the state may be taking shots meant for that other community.

But she said pharmacies that are part of a federal program are a bit different.

"Since they're receiving regular supplies from the federal government, based on where the stores are located. And so, my belief is, I don't want unfilled vaccine appointments," said Willems Van Dijk.

Willems Van Dijk said it's ultimately up to each person's patience and level of concern about their risk of getting the coronavirus.

Wisconsin currently isn't scheduled to expand eligibility again, such as to everyone age 16 and older, until May 1. Other states are doing so sooner. Willems Van Dijk said Wisconsin is constantly evaluating the situation.

"As you know, it's only been since Monday that we started with this new group of over two million people with chronic diseases and they are of course, people at higher risk than the general population. So, we certainly want to give time for folks with these chronic diseases to get into the vaccine system, make appointments," she said.

Willems Van Dijk said the state also wants to watch where it's heading with vaccine supply.

The update from the Evers administration comes one year after the state's Safer at Home order told many people to stay in their residences to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The hospitality industry says it's lost many customers, and many restaurants and bars have permanently closed.

Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano told a WisBusiness webinar Thursday that his members have increased cleaning and distancing, and it's time for more cities like Milwaukee to loosen restrictions.

Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano speaks during a WisBusiness webinar on Thursday. He also owns The Village Supper Club in Delavan.
Chuck Quirmbach
Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano speaks during a WisBusiness webinar on Thursday. He also owns The Village Supper Club in Delavan.

"We took every precaution we could, got rid of our salad bars, I mean we did everything we possibly could...as we look at our friends in Madison, Dane County, and Milwaukee they have suffered under this continual crush of mandates," said Marsicano.

Last week, Milwaukee did ease some restrictions on the hospitality industry and other venues.

DHS' Willems Van Dijk said she's worried about an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the last week or so. But she said the state does have a timetable for Wisconsin to get closer to normal.

"With the infrastructure we've put in place, we should be able to deliver vaccine at a level to get us up toward community immunity by July," said Willems Van Dijk.

But Willems Van Dijk said the disease rate has to be going down at that point.

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