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Next Steps For Vaccine Distribution In Wisconsin, Explained By A Public Health Professional

In Wisconsin, frontline health care workers and long-term health facilities have been the first to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.


Wisconsin has already begun distributing vaccines for COVID-19. The vaccines currently being administered, made by Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses spread a few weeks apart from each other.

The process to choose who becomes eligible for available doses of the vaccine has in many parts been left up to state and local health officials with guidance from the CDC and federal government. That means in each state it can look slightly different.  

In Wisconsin, frontline health care workers and long-term care facilities have been first in line.

Dr. Heather Paradis is a pediatrician and public health professional in Milwaukee and since 2015 she has been a medical director at Children’s Hospital.

She explains that Wisconsin’s vaccine distribution plan is broken up into several groups. Group 1a is all frontline health care workers and residents and workers inside long-term care and nursing homes.

“[Vaccinating group 1a] is likely to take at least the first month of 2021 and likely into the beginning of February,” Paradis explains.

After that is completed, group 1b would become the next recipients of available vaccine doses. That group will be made up of people over the age of 75 who live on their own as well as frontline essential workers.

Exactly which workers will be included in group 1b and in which order they become eligible for the vaccine has not been completely decided, but Paradis says that health departments will be looking at all jobs that can’t be done from home or from a safe distance.

“Individuals who cannot perform the duties of their jobs remotely, whose jobs bring them into frequent contact with members of the public, and/or are working in settings where it’s very difficult to social distance from their workmates,” she says.

When those distinctions are made, Paradis says city and county health departments will work to reach out to those who can get the vaccine and educate them on their options so that workers are not left on their own to figure out the process.

She says that after group 1b, the vaccine will then be made available to anyone who wants to get vaccinated. According to Paradis, this will not begin for at least a few more months.

And until communities start to reach widespread levels of completed vaccinations, Paradis says everyone will need to continue to work hard at preventing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, limiting contact and saying home whenever possible.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.