Sometime Friday afternoon, communities across Wisconsin should get the word on how much COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive for use next week. The issue is key, as health officials try to coordinate vaccination of not only the remainder of frontline health care workers and others in the so-called phase 1a group, but also more people age 65 and older who first started to receive their shot this week.
City of Greenfield Health Director Darren Rausch said statewide, Wisconsin will probably get 70,000 doses next week. But he said public health agencies, pharmacies, medical clinics and other sites have requests for 290,000 doses.
"So essentially the demand for vaccine from vaccinator agencies trying to vaccinate people in our community is four times higher than the supply,” said Rausch.
Rausch said Greenfield received 300 doses for this week, as part of a total of about 600 the past few weeks. He said his department has used most of them vaccinating more health care workers and some seniors. Some vaccine is reserved for second doses for people who got their first shot a few weeks ago.
But Rausch said Greenfield has more than 8,000 people 65 and older. So, he urged patience, and said the situation is similar across Wisconsin.
Given the tight supply, a reporter asked Rausch about a small number of non-frontline health care or some public sector workers receiving the vaccine.
Rausch replied that when vials are opened, all the vaccine in them has to be used within six hours.
"I can tell you that rather than waste doses and vials, we will, from time to time, grab health department employees or grab employees from city hall to use the last two or three doses,” he said.
Dr. Ben Weston, of the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, describes a similar experience.
"There does come a time — and it's happened at our vaccine site, I'm sure it's happened at every vaccine site, frankly across the country — you open that vial and you have to use those 10 doses and use them in a certain number of hours. So, you schedule your appointments based on those state-approved groups. But, if you have a dose at the end of the day, you absolutely do not throw that dose away. You find somebody to get that dose in, and you do your best to make sure that it's someone who is within the state approved guidelines,” said Weston.
State officials said they keep pressing the federal government for more COVID-19 vaccine.
Rausch also released new graphics illustrating the current state of COVID-19 spread in the greater Milwaukee area.