Addressing the next phase of the vaccine rollout in Wisconsin, on Jan. 19 the state announced that Wisconsinites aged 65 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting next week, and vaccinators that have vaccine on hand can begin even earlier if they have finished vaccinating Phase 1a eligible populations, which include health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities.
The announcement is the latest development as Wisconsin begins to broaden vaccine eligibility. Last week, the state announced that police and fire personnel were able to receive the vaccine beginning this week, and the state has also announced that corrections workers are included in the next phase.
“Wisconsin hospitals and health systems have been the frontline of the state’s fight against COVID for the past 10 months and are eager again to serve their patients and communities across Wisconsin. They have already administered thousands of vaccines and are anxious to do more,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) President and CEO Eric Borgerding. “This is an important next phase of vaccine ramp up, and we appreciate this decision by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the steps it has taken to register more than 1,200 vaccinators, including hospitals, local public health departments, pharmacies, community clinics and others who will all be needed in this next round of the fight.”
Also this week, the state committee charged with making recommendations on the next phase—known as Phase 1b—completed its work. The recommendations of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) and its Vaccine Distribution Subcommittee are now moving onto DHS to make the final decisions.
Other groups in the proposed Phase 1b recommendations include the following, with non-frontline health care personnel being a WHA recommendation to the subcommittee:
- Family care and IRIS (Include, Respect, and I Self-Direct) recipients;
- Facility staff and residents of congregate living settings;
- 911 operators;
- Utility employees;
- Those serving in education and child care;
- Public transit employees;
- Grocery, food production, hunger relief and agricultural workers;
- Non-frontline health care personnel; and
- Those working in mink husbandry.
More details on SDMAC’s recommendations and the groups proposed for vaccination eligibility can be found here.
According to Borgerding, hospitals and health systems are reaching out to patients aged 65 and older and will begin vaccinating them as soon as possible and at a pace commensurate with the state’s ability to procure and distribute needed vaccine doses. However, to transition as quickly and smoothly into this next phase, it will be important that all of the DHS-approved vaccinators play a role as the state begins to broaden the populations who can be vaccinated today and in the future.
“I am very confident that as they have throughout this pandemic, our hospitals and health systems will again answer the call by significantly expanding their role in this public health effort,” Borgerding said. “And by bringing the combined capabilities of DHS’s 1,200 registered vaccinators, including DHS’s mass vaccination clinics, health systems, local public health departments, pharmacies, FQHCs, and combining those with the efforts of the UW System, Wisconsin should have the capacity assets to get this job done if all the vaccinators, including local public health departments, do their part, if we have the regulatory flexibility we need to keep needles in arms and, of course, if we have the vaccines.”