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Teachers, elderly, prisoners and others could get COVID-19 vaccine next in Wisconsin
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Teachers, elderly, prisoners and others could get COVID-19 vaccine next in Wisconsin

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Getting shot ready

Susan Johnston, pharmacy manager for UW Health's Pharmaceutical Research Center, prepares a shot of COVID-19 vaccine last month.

Teachers, child care workers, people 70 and older, prisoners and others who live in congregate settings would get COVID-19 vaccine next in Wisconsin, under a plan approved Tuesday by a state committee.

The plan, to be sent to the state Department of Health Services following public comment and approval by a larger committee, comes as the Trump administration said everyone 65 and older and adults with serious medication conditions should now qualify to get vaccine.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said additional doses will be coming to states.

“An increase in available doses will also accelerate our inclusion of additional populations eligible for vaccine,” the Wisconsin health department said in a statement. “Serious consideration will be given to the federal government’s recommendation on eligible populations.”

Health care workers and nursing home residents have had top priority for a limited supply of vaccine in Wisconsin and elsewhere since immunization against the coronavirus started nearly a month ago, in what is known as phase 1a.

In the state, that’s about 550,000 people, including those in assisted living facilities, for whom vaccination is expected to start the week of Jan. 25.

Police officers and non-paramedic firefighters in Wisconsin can start getting shots next week, as the first part of phase 1b, state officials said Monday. That’s nearly 30,000 people. Medics have been in phase 1a.

According to the plan approved Tuesday by the vaccine distribution subcommittee of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, which still must approve it, others in phase 1b would include:

  • K-12 and higher education instructors, preschool staff and child care workers, or about 160,000 people.
  • People 70 and older not in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, or about 550,000 people.
  • Corrections workers and inmates, or nearly 28,000 people. Prisoners infected with COVID-19 in the past 90 days may be asked to wait since they are assumed to have temporary immunity.
  • People in group homes or who otherwise participate in state programs for people with disabilities and the frail elderly, which may be about 77,000 people. The category also includes people in state centers such as mental health institutes.
  • Mink farmers, as COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred on mink farms and pose a biosecurity risk, or 300 people.
  • The subcommittee was split on whether to include people in employer-based housing, such as farm workers; people in shelters for those experiencing homelessness or domestic violence; and non-frontline health care workers, such as those in information technology or who work on the hospital supply chain.

“Whatever we do is going to be far from perfect, and that’s OK,” said Dr. Jonathan Temte, co-chair of the subcommittee and associate dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “The important thing is to get as much vaccine into as many people as possible.”

It’s not clear when the rest of phase 1b might start in Wisconsin, which has been receiving about 70,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each week. As of Tuesday, 163,371 doses of the vaccines had been given, including at least 11,586 booster shots.

Health officials have said people will likely get shots at their regular medical clinics, local pharmacies or at mass community clinics.

“For new populations who become eligible, we want you to know there will be many options, such as your doctor or health center, your pharmacy or a community vaccination site,” state Secretary of Health Services Andrea Palm said in a statement Tuesday, adding that nearly 1,200 entities in the state are now registered to provide vaccine.

Phase 1c will likely include people 65 and older, adults with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers such as those in grocery stores, public transit and manufacturing.

The general public age 16 and older will be in phase 2, expected to start in late spring or early summer. The vaccines authorized so far have not been studied enough in younger people to include them in the recommendations, health officials say.

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