Get the COVID-19 vaccines out of the freezers and into people’s arms.
That’s what Wisconsin needs to do faster, with less concern for doling them out in some perfect bureaucratic order.
Of course health professionals deserve the vaccine first. They are the ones treating people for the dangerous disease and exposing themselves to the greatest risk. Of course nursing home residents should be prioritized. Long-term care facilities have suffered more than a quarter of the state’s 5,300 deaths from the virus.
Frontline workers including police, firefighters and first-responders should have early access to inoculation. So should school teachers, so our children can finally get back into classrooms.
But too much of the pandemic-ending medicine is sitting on ice and unused because of no-shows or confusion about how many doses should be delivered to whom. Public health officials shouldn’t waste time with idealistic protocols. Just get those doses into people’s arms as quickly as possible. Don’t obsess over whose arm it is.
The more people we get protected from COVID-19, the less it will spread, and the more everyone will be protected. Planning for orderly distribution is fine, but the state must allow for more flexibility, too. That’s what has been most lacking.
Health facilities could be vaccinating many more people, especially vulnerable older adults, if providers weren’t handcuffed by cumbersome state rules.
So far, Wisconsin’s distribution of vaccines has been slow, with a state subcommittee to another committee spending weeks debating whether prisoners, mink farmers, college instructors and others should get some preference.
State officials shouldn’t overthink this. Set a plan, but allow for plenty of wiggle room to encourage efficiency. The federal government just said anyone 65 and older should now be eligible — advice our state should take.
Wisconsin has been at or near the bottom of a dozen Midwestern states at administering the life-saving injections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s frustrating and must improve.
Only about 3% of Wisconsin’s population has received at least one of the two shots required for completing inoculation. Other states across the Midwest are doing better. So is the nation as a whole.
Part of the reason our state’s numbers are low, state officials say, is because more doses have to be set aside for a higher population of assisted living residents here. But anecdotally, local health officials say many doses are sitting in freezers rather than being distributed quickly.
Gov. Tony Evers’ administration must insist on speed and volume, not a precise and methodical order based on complicated government instructions.
Some hospitals have started delivering vaccines to any employees who want them — including some who don’t have contact with patients. That should be encouraged, not criticized, so doses aren’t wasted or delayed. And if health providers in Janesville have enough shots for teachers, great. Don’t waste time sending unused vaccine back to the state for redistribution.
The public should eagerly roll up its sleeves to get shots. They are safe. They have proven more than 90% effective in clinical trials.
Please get a shot when you are offered one. The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner our lives can return to normal.