Home Health News What we know so far about Wisconsin's plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What we know so far about Wisconsin's plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

11 min read

Mary Spicuzza

Alison Dirr
| Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When will it arrive, who will get it first and how will it be distributed?

Those are just some of the many questions as Wisconsin awaits its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.

Here’s what we know so far about Wisconsin’s distribution plans. We’ll be updating this as we get more information.

When will Wisconsin get the vaccine?

There’s no firm date yet, but vaccine distribution in the United States could begin very soon.

“We expect to receive vaccine by mid-December and begin distribution,” said Elizabeth Goodsitt, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health services.

The state hopes to receive nearly 50,000 doses in its first shipment.

“Our current understanding based on what we have been told by CDC is we will receive 49,725 the first week vaccine is distributed (December 14), but that is subject to change,” Goodsitt said in an email. “We expect to get more shipments weekly to follow.”

Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have applied for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their vaccines. More companies are expected to apply in the coming months. 

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first western country to approve widespread use of Pfizer’s vaccine, making it one of the first countries to begin vaccinating people.

Which Wisconsinites will get the vaccine first?

The first to be inoculated against the new coronavirus in Wisconsin will be health care workers who have treated or been exposed to COVID-19 patients, residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities, people over age 65, and some essential workers, a plan released by the state Department of Health Services says.

Those groups are considered to be priority “Phase 1 populations” under the DHS plan.

The second phase will include all those from Phase 1 who have yet to be vaccinated, along with “other critical populations to be determined.” The state expects a larger number of doses to be available, likely enough to meet demand.

Wisconsin expects to take part in a program that will pair long-term care and assisted living facilities with specific pharmacies. Residents would be vaccinated where they live.

How many doses of the vaccine will Wisconsin get?

The amount of vaccine that Wisconsin receives will depend on how much has been produced and made available, but also on how fast the disease is spreading in the state.

How many shots of the vaccine will each person need?

People should expect to receive two shots, either 21 days or 28 days apart, to develop immunity to the new coronavirus. While different vaccines may be available, each person will need to receive doses of the same vaccine.

Who will pay for the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will be procured and distributed by the federal government at no cost to enrolled vaccine providers or their patients, the DHS plan says.

Who will be involved in Wisconsin’s vaccine plan?

Wisconsin’s plan will be implemented in partnership with the state’s 97 local health departments and tribal jurisdictions, as well as health care providers, pharmacies, community-based organizations, and other public agencies, according to the DHS plan.

More than 1,100 providers and 485 organizations have submitted forms to become vaccine providers, Goodsitt said.

What are the vaccine shipping plans?

Enrolled vaccine providers will order the COVID-19 vaccine from their state immunization program’s allocation, and the vaccine will then ship from the CDC’s distributor directly to the provider, the DHS plan says.

The minimum order for the Moderna vaccine is expected to be 100 doses, while Pfizer’s minimum is 975, DHS said. Vaccines will include supplies needed to administer the vaccine, including needles, syringes, and some PPE

How cold does the vaccine have to be during storage?

The COVID-19 vaccines in the FDA approval pipeline have to be stored at temperatures ranging from cold to Antarctica cold.

The vaccine made by Pfizer needs to be stored at an extremely cold temperature — minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna says its vaccine needs to be frozen, but at minus 20 Celsius, which is closer to the temperature of a regular freezer.

What is Milwaukee’s vaccine distribution plan?

The City of Milwaukee likely won’t finish its plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution before the end of the year, interim Milwaukee Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said Tuesday.

That’s because the city is waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to announce when it will authorize the vaccines and when the vaccines will arrive, she said.

The city is waiting for final approval of the two vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and is figuring out how to distribute them given the likelihood of needing to deliver two shots per person and special storage needs for the Pfizer vaccine, she said.

“What that means for us in the Health Department is that there are lots of logistics to be worked out and challenges that we are in the process of working through so that when the vaccine hits our door we are ready and comfortable and confident that what we’re doing and how we’re doing it is going to be safe and effective for the public,” she said.

She said officials know there will be a phased approach that likely will start with health care providers and long-term care facility residents followed by essential workers including firefighters, police and teachers. The next groups would likely be those at high-risk and then the general public.

Vaccines for the general public aren’t expected to be available until the spring, Jackson said.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is there, we just have to make it there,” she said.

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.

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