The first of Wisconsin’s health care workers could get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the week. But the state’s public health managers say it will take time to get the rest of the doses into the community.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk on Monday said it will take until at least the end of the month to get doses to health care workers and people who are living in skilled nursing facilities. It will take longer to vaccinate the next group of people.
“Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is the most significant public health undertaking of our lifetimes,” Willems Van Dijk told reporters. “We are adapting the process on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day, to make sure we get the job done.”
Willems Van Dijk said DHS has activated its vaccine distribution plan. That means hospitals in Milwaukee and Madison will have the vaccine in their hands in a matter of days. Some pharmacies in Wisconsin – Walgreens and CVS chief among them – will also get vaccines in the coming days. No one had received a dose as of midday Monday.
Willems Van Dijk said it will be easier to vaccinate health care workers and people in long term care facilities because, for the most part, doctors know where to find those people.
That will change in a few months when Wisconsin starts to offer the vaccine to the general public.
“Well over half of the tests for COVID-19 have been done in the health care system. And we would anticipate that, similarly, over half of the vaccines will be given in the health system as well,” she said/
But Willems Van Dijk said there will also be large-scale vaccination locations. “We are preparing to run a number of mass-vaccination community-based clinics throughout the state. Because we know the number of people requiring vaccines will be too big for our health care system to handle.”
Willems Van Dijk noted, similar to community testing sites, there will be community vaccination sites as well.
The first doses of the vaccine also come with a warning.
“While we undertake this work, the virus will still be here,” Willems Van Dijk added. “Stay home, do not interact with people who you do not live with, wash your hands frequently, when you do go out for the essentials wear a mask and practice physical distancing.”
Wisconsin is in line for about 50,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer this week. DHS has said in the past it could take until the fall to vaccinate everyone in Wisconsin who wants a shot.
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