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If Pfizer COVID Vaccine Approved, Wisconsin Expects To Start Vaccinating This Month

Yui Mok
Nurses at the Royal Free Hospital, London, simulate the administration of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout, on Dec. 5 in London.

Select healthcare workers and long-term care residents in Wisconsin could start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as this month. Wisconsin Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk briefed reporters on vaccine plans Monday. She said Wisconsin expects to receive about 50,000 doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer — if it gains emergency use authorization from the federal government.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could give Pfizer the green light as soon as this week.

READ: FDA Analysis Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Finds It Effective And Safe

“Once the Pfizer vaccine is approved, it will be sent in batches to hubs in each of our healthcare emergency response coalition regions that are all equipped with ultra-cold storage this vaccine requires,” Willems Van Dijk said. “Once at these hubs, vaccine will then be redistributed to smaller clinics around the hub area.”

University of Wisconsin Health announced that it would serve as a storage hub for the Pfizer vaccine. DHS has not provided information about other hubs.

Another COVID vaccine from Moderna is also on the verge of approval. That one doesn’t require ultra-cold storage, so Willems Van Dijk it will be distributed directly to where it is needed.

Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents will be prioritized. But the first round of 50,000 shots won’t be enough for all of them.

“So question one is, when we get those 49,000 doses, where in the state do we distribute them?” Willems Van Dijk asked. “Do we divide by 72 counties? Do we divide by population or burden of disease or other considerations?”

A committee of health professionals is working on those recommendations right now.

Willems Van Dijk cautioned that people will still need to wear masks and limit their social contact until mid or late 2021, when she hopes most of Wisconsin’s 6 million residents are vaccinated against COVID-19.

“There are 5.8 million people in Wisconsin … that’s 11.6 doses we’d have to give out [because the vaccine requires two doses,]” Willems Van Dijk said. “When we think about how many COVID tests we’ve done overall, we’ve done around 4.5 to 5 million tests since last May. So think about that scope. It’s not like you can give that many vaccines in a month or two. This is going to spread at least over a similar time as our testing effort to date, and probably a little longer.”

Emily does education reporting as well as general news editing at WUWM.
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