vaccine

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Gov. Tony Evers defended Wisconsin's vaccination efforts in the face of increasing Republican criticism Thursday, while urging patience because the number of people eligible will expand exponentially next week.

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Wisconsin has begun distributing vaccinations for COVID-19 to health care workers, first responders and those in long-term care facilities. Soon that may include childcare and K-12 school employees, incarcerated people, public transit workers and everyone 65 and older.

But getting vaccinated doesn’t mean that taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will end.

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Updated 1:25 p.m.

As more vaccines arrive in Wisconsin each week, the time when the vaccine will be available to the general public gets closer and closer. But many people are wondering what its actually like to get the vaccinated.

So, Lake Effect asked health care workers who have gotten the vaccine to share their experience and describe the good and the bad that came along with getting their shots.

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A prominent Milwaukee doctor weighed in this week, somewhat reluctantly, on how the battle against COVID-19 will go with President Joe Biden.

Dr. John Raymond is president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin. He was asked during a virtual meeting of the Milwaukee Rotary Club on Jan. 19 about the Biden administration replacing the Trump administration. 

"Well, it's difficult to do without traversing into political areas,” replied Raymond.

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Several bills designed to speed up the COVID-19 vaccination process in Wisconsin are making their way through the Republican-controlled state Legislature. 

The Assembly Committee on Health held a public hearing Wednesday on a measure that would immediately prioritize anyone 60 years and older for the vaccine.

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School employees, grocery workers, inmates and 911 operators would be included in Phase 1b of the state’s COVID vaccine distribution plan, under a recommendation a task force issued Wednesday.

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  Updated 5:36 p.m.

A Wisconsin pharmacist accused of trying to defrost and spoil dozens of vials of COVID-19 vaccine was charged Tuesday with attempted misdemeanor property damage, and prosecutors warned more serious charges could follow if tests show the doses were ruined.

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The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Wisconsin on Dec. 14, 2020 with the first vaccinations that afternoon.

Wisconsin is currently in phase 1a of the vaccination effort, which includes health care workers, first responders and those in long-term care facilities.

Kate is a speech therapist in an acute care medical setting. She is one of the many Wisconsin health care workers who has gotten the first dose of the vaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccinations resume Tuesday at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee. Not for the general public yet  — but for some workers in the city.

Mayor Tom Barrett is especially urging home health care employees to get the vaccine.

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Updated 5:29 p.m.

Everyone over age 65 in Wisconsin will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday but it could take a couple of months to inoculate the entire group of 700,000 people, state health officials said.

The department cautioned that the speed of vaccinations depends on how much vaccine the federal government sends. Wisconsin receives about 70,000 doses of first-dose vaccine each week; at that pace, it could take two months to vaccinate the next group.

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Wisconsin’s plan for the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations covers essential workers, including teachers, child care providers, law enforcement officers and hospital staff who aren’t on the front lines.

In Wisconsin, it doesn’t include grocery store employees, as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the states’ second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations. Grocery store owners, who thought their employees would be included in the next phase, are upset.

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Wisconsin is launching a mobile coronavirus vaccination program next week to be operated by the Wisconsin National Guard and health officials, Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday.

Nine mobile labs will be dispatched across the state starting Tuesday, Evers said. They will be staffed by members of the National Guard as well as pharmacy and nursing student volunteers through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin System.

As more vaccine is released to the state, the program will expand access with local partners, Evers said.

Emily Files

One Milwaukee-area university is clearing the way for some of its students to help with Wisconsin’s massive COVID-19 vaccination effort. Concordia University in Mequon offered a special immunization class for its first and second-year pharmacy students earlier this month.

The students normally wouldn’t learn how to administer vaccines until spring of their second year in the program, but now they can be called upon to give COVID shots as soon as they’re needed.

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On Tuesday morning, the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee opened as a COVID-19 vaccination site for some city of Milwaukee firefighters, emergency medical service employees and city health department workers. 

These people are in what's known as the phase 1a category of vaccine recipients. City officials emphasize the general public is not yet welcome at the Wisconsin Center site.

The health department's Nick Tomaro is helping run the vaccination effort. He says the center is a controlled environment.

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The city of Milwaukee plans to use the Wisconsin Center as a COVID-19 vaccination site beginning next week.

The city started vaccinating its health department workers and emergency medical personnel this week, with an initial 120 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“Individuals who are getting vaccinated feel a sense of hope and relief,” Milwaukee Interim Health Commission Marlaina Jackson said during a press briefing Friday.

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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.

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The city of Milwaukee is beginning to vaccinate frontline workers against the coronavirus. The city received 100 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine Wednesday afternoon. Eight-hundred more doses will come in staggered shipments next week.

Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters that distribution begins Thursday for some health and fire department personnel.

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Now that the holiday season is over, Wisconsin leaders hope to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.

According to the State Department of Health Services, Wisconsin has administered about a third of the vaccine doses it has received. Of 266,675 doses shipped to the state, 85,609 shots have been given.

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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.

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Updated Jan. 5 at 10:41 a.m.

A Wisconsin pharmacist told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he felt the medicine wasn't safe, a prosecutor said Monday.

Police in Grafton, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, arrested the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg last week following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine, which officials say contained enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people.

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Gov. Tony Evers says COVID-19 vaccinations of residents and staff are now underway at some Wisconsin long-term care facilities, including nursing homes. Eligible sites are paired with two large pharmacy chains, which will provide storage and handling of the Moderna brand vaccine, as well as scheduling, administering the drug and reporting its use. 

About 57,000 doses will initially be available for the long-term care facilities.  The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the vaccination program at those sites will continue for about two months.

Susan Bence

For months, public health officials have been repeating coronavirus messaging: wear masks, social distance and get tested for possible exposure when possible. With Christmas and New Year's just days away, officials are more concerned than ever.

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and city health department officials held a news conference in the Miller Park parking lot. It's one of the places where COVID-19 testing is being offered. They hoped the visual reinforcement would drive their message home.

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The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Milwaukee County on Tuesday. Distribution among county behavioral health department personnel has begun.

That’s according to County Executive David Crowley. "We’ll be among some of the first to access this vaccine, and though we know that this batch won't provide enough for all eligible (behavioral health) department employees, we do expect to receive more shipments of the vaccine in the coming months until all staff who at least want to be vaccinated are able to," he said.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

The Trump administration says it has reached a deal with Pfizer to buy an additional 100 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine, effectively doubling the federal government's supply from Pfizer.

The pharmaceutical giant is to deliver 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, and complete the rest of the order by the end of the following month, according to a statement released Wednesday morning by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Chuck Quirmbach

State health officials said that as of midday Monday, more than 10,000 health care workers in Wisconsin had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Health Services (DHS) expects that number to quickly rise. But vaccine supply questions are hampering estimates on when most U.S. residents will be immunized.  

Meanwhile, a state site in West Allis is about to start giving out a drug to treat some people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.   

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Many people are eager for their chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but there are those who don’t share that feeling — especially in communities of color.

Mike Hutchinson said he will be getting the vaccine when it’s widely available. He's already had COVID-19 and wants to prevent it from coming back.

"I definitely plan to get it if becomes readily available for me because I have two daughters and just because of the close contact I am with people," he said. 

Health care workers across the U.S. are getting a new arrow in their quiver.

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Add Wisconsin to the list of states told by the federal government that it will be receiving less COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech than initially expected.

UW Health

This week, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine made its way to Wisconsin. The nearly 50,000 vaccines are being delivered to eight hubs across the state. Department of Health Service’s Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm said Thursday that the logistics, distribution and transportation have been smooth. And that health care workers are already being vaccinated.

She said there are stories of health care providers who’ve been overcome with emotion as they’ve received the vaccine. Palm said she didn’t think about how much relief “we’d all feel” as a vaccine began rolling out.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

More health care workers are starting to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine. That includes at the Milwaukee VA hospital, which has about 4,000 employees. The immunization of staff may shed some light on how things will eventually go for veterans who use the Zablocki Medical Center and other VA sites.

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