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Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccination ramps up, to expand to more groups this month
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COVID-19 | WISCONSIN

Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccination ramps up, to expand to more groups this month

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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.

More than 110,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in Wisconsin as of Thursday, with daily immunizations increasing and the effort expected to expand from health care workers and nursing home residents to other priority groups by the end of the month, state officials said.

But to match President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to vaccinate 1 million people a day nationally, and to achieve herd immunity in Wisconsin by fall, the state will need to receive up to two to three times the 70,000 doses a week it’s now getting from the federal government, officials said.

“Our system is working, and we are in the process of continuing to increase entry points for people to get vaccine in our state,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy director of the state Department of Health Services. But, she said, “we don’t have enough supply to open the gates much wider.”

This week, 6,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Monday, 8,000 doses Tuesday and 11,600 doses Wednesday, Willems Van Dijk said. Nearly 5,000 people have received their second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, so the 110,201 doses delivered statewide as of Thursday represent about 105,000 people, she said.

“In this post-holiday period, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of daily doses,” she said.

Wisconsin’s portion of 1 million shots a day would be 18,000 a day or 126,000 a week, Willems Van Dijk said. The state is approaching the capacity to do that but would need to receive more vaccine, she said.

As the state continues to focus on immunizing more than 500,000 health care workers and nursing homes residents in phase 1a of its vaccination plan, officials plan to start vaccinating assisted living residents the week of Jan. 25, Willems Dan Dijk said.

It’s likely vaccination will shift to phase 1b by the end of the month, she said. According to a state committee, that will likely include people 75 and older, first responders, K-12 teachers and corrections workers. It may include other groups, such as college instructors, inmates, group home residents and grocery store and public transit workers.

Later, vaccinating the general public will require an increase in supply, and likely the approval of at least one more vaccine, Willems Van Dijk said.

“Most people are predicting we’ll be there by early summer,” she said. “Maybe, with increased supply, we’ll be there a little bit earlier.”

Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager for the state health department, said only about 37% of state residents have gotten their flu shots this season, and many children have missed childhood vaccination during the pandemic.

Flu activity has been low but could pick up soon, Schauer said. As people wait for COVID-19 shots, she encouraged them to get other immunizations.

“We have safe and effective vaccines that are available now,” she said.

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