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Health & Science

Wisconsin Needs 'Double To Triple' The Vaccine Doses To Achieve Herd Immunity By Fall

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Justin Tallis
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Getty Images
A member of staff poses with a phial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health centre on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history on Dec. 8, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.

Wisconsin is still in phase 1a of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. That means vaccinating health care workers and residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities.

Health officials say the process is complex, and they’re working to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine will, indeed, get one.

Providers that can administer vaccines to the public are called “registered vaccinators.” Those are entities like health care systems, health departments and pharmacies.

Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the number of registered vaccinators is growing, as the state gears up for a large-scale roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“On Dec. 14, we had 108 eligible and enrolled providers that could vaccinate. As of Jan. 5, we have 1,066. Full tenfold increase over the last few weeks,” she said.

The vaccine is being shipped to regional hospital hubs and then distributed by the vaccination task force, which includes the National Guard and Wisconsin State Patrol.

As of Thursday, about 105,000 people in the group labeled 1a had received the vaccine in Wisconsin. And, some have received their second dose — fully completing the series.

According to reports from the Washington Post, the federal government has only sent out less than half of their stock of vaccine.  In a letter citing this report, signed by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and seven other Democratic governors, the governors are calling on the federal government to release those vaccine doses to the states in order to quicken the pace of vaccinations. 

With current supplies, Van Dijk expects all 1a recipents to be vaccinated by the end of the month. 

“So we are working very hard on skilled nursing care, assisted living facilities, our essential health care workers — including those who are unaffiliated from hospitals, so getting to EMS, getting to dentists, getting to people who don't work for a typical vaccinator. We'll be moving those forward over the next few weeks. And I anticipate we'll be moving into Phase b before the end of the month — 1b,” she said.

At this point, Van Dijk said the biggest obstacle to pushing out the vaccine is supply. She explained that while the state is likely to see an increased supply of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in coming months, we also need access to new vaccines.

“So a big part of what will guide us of moving from 1b to 1c to the general population will be the success of some of the other vaccines in vaccine trials,” said Van Dijk.

The populations that will be in groups 1b and 1c have not been officially defined yet, but are expected to include the elderly, some people with high-risk medical conditions and non-frontline essential workers.

But the big goal, Van Dijk said, is ultimately vaccinating at least 70-85% of the state to achieve herd immunity.

“And in order to do that, we're going to have need to have double to triple the number of doses that we're currently receiving now, on a weekly basis to get there in a reasonable period of time, which I'm thinking is by the fall,” she said.

Funds approved in the recent federal COVID-19 bill will bolster state vaccination efforts. 

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