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New COVID-19 vaccine doses in Wisconsin going to teachers
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New COVID-19 vaccine doses in Wisconsin going to teachers

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COVID-19 vaccine

Nursing student Tristan Ruch administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Luis Torres, a graduate student who is studying MRI research, at Nicholas Recreation Center at UW-Madison last month.

Wisconsin plans to direct its more than 47,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine next week to teachers, which may allow other groups recently made eligible and those coming next to get shots sooner, state officials said Tuesday.

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“This is going to help us move through the educator workforce more quickly, and that will open up for others coming behind them,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the state Department of Health Services.

Whether the allocation of J&J vaccine mostly to teachers will move up plans for a vaccination clinic for Dane County educators at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison is unclear. Public Health Madison and Dane County initially planned to start the clinic this week but last week said it would have to wait until March 19 because it wasn’t getting doses requested from the state.

“We don’t have confirmation on doses for next week yet, but if we get doses for teachers, we will move up our timeline” for the Alliant clinic, said Sarah Mattes, spokesperson for the city-county health department.

Meanwhile, a state registry for vaccinations, initially scheduled to start Monday, has had some glitches but should be available later this week, Willems Van Dijk said. A master schedule for vaccinating school districts will be released “in the next few days,” she said, and some Kroger pharmacies in the state are joining Walgreens in giving injections.

The J&J vaccine, authorized by the federal government Saturday, is a one-dose shot stored in refrigeration, while the two-dose immunizations available since December from Pfizer and Moderna require freezing. The J&J vaccine’s efficacy was somewhat lower than the others in preventing COVID-19 in studies, but the trials were conducted in different circumstances and all three vaccines are highly effective in blocking serious disease and death, health officials say.

“Accept the vaccine that you are offered,” Willems Van Dijk said. “If you say, ‘No, thank you,’ you’ll just have to get in a different line and wait longer.”

A quarter of school districts in Wisconsin expect to be done with vaccination by March 15, and the state anticipates having adequate supply for others to begin this month, she said. The master schedule will provide details.

SSM Health vaccinated about 550 Waunakee School District teachers and staff Tuesday and plans a similar mobile vaccination clinic in Sun Prairie Friday, using a portion of its regular vaccine allotment.

The statewide registry, which some local health departments are testing, uses Microsoft software. It will let people who are eligible for vaccination schedule shots and others get on a waiting list. Some components haven’t functioned as expected, and the state is trying to make sure people already on waiting lists are properly imported into the system, Willems Van Dijk said.

“Quality trumped speed in this one,” she said, adding parts of the registry might be available before Friday.

Shots at Kroger

Some Kroger pharmacies in Wisconsin, which include Metro Market and Pick ‘n Save locations, will start to receive COVID-19 vaccine through a federal program this week, joining Walgreens pharmacies in providing shots to people who are eligible, state officials said.

Kroger, which has 67 pharmacies at 106 stores in Wisconsin, will get 2,340 doses of Pfizer vaccine in the state through the federal program for the first week, according to the state health department. That’s on top of 1,552 doses the pharmacies are getting from the state.

Kroger spokesperson James Hyland said he didn’t know which pharmacies would get the additional doses.

Anyone currently eligible for the vaccine in Wisconsin can check Kroger’s website or call 866-211-5320 to schedule an appointment. Some 178 Walgreens stores in the state are providing shots; registration is available online or at 800-925-4733.

Statewide, most immunizations are available through health care providers, local health departments, pharmacies and a state-run community clinic at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, with the state recently making a list and map available online.

Others eligible

Teachers and child care workers on Monday joined other groups eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, including frontline health care workers, nursing home and assisted-living residents, police officers, firefighters, correctional workers and residents 65 and older.

Also eligible starting Monday, but prioritized after teachers and child care workers, are: people in Medicaid long-term care programs, including those with disabilities; workers in public transit, all parts of the food industry and some other sectors; other essential health care workers; and residents in congregate living settings, including group homes, prisons and jails.

Willems Van Dijk said eligibility for other groups, such as people under 65 with chronic diseases, will be announced “very soon.”

As of Tuesday, 928,958 people, or 16% of the state population, had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 505,123, or 8.7% had been fully vaccinated. Among older adults, 55.4% statewide and 61.5% in Dane County have had at least one shot.

Racine Journal Times reporter Adam Rogan contributed to this report.


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