First shipments of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Wisconsin, to be given this week

    In an online news conference on Monday, Wisconsin Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk describes the arrival of Wisconsin's first batch of COVID-19 vaccines. (YouTube screen capture)

    The first COVID-19 shots in Wisconsin will be administered this week to healthcare workers, state health officials confirmed Monday, following the emergency use authorization over the weekend of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner, Germany-based BioNTech.

    The first 10,000 vaccine doses for the state arrived Monday, Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk told reporters during an online news conference. The rest of the state’s total initial allotment of 49,725 doses will arrive Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

    The vaccine is given in two doses. The first batch will be delivered as first doses to the nearly 50,000 recipients, who will get a second dose about three weeks after their first one.

    The initial recipients will account for a little more than 10% of the state’s healthcare workers, estimated at more than 400,000 people. The state is still awaiting confirmation of how much more vaccine, and how soon, it will receive beyond this week’s first shipments.

    Vaccinations for nursing home residents and employees are expected to begin starting in two weeks. Long-term care facilities will be receiving a different vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, according to a press announcement from Gov. Tony Evers, and shots for those facilities will be administered under a federal contract with pharmaceutical retailers  Walgreens and CVS.

    The Pfizer vaccine is being shipped to a series of hubs around the state — currently eight, although more will be added — that are equipped with cold-storage facilities that the vaccine requires. Doses will then be distributed to local providers of the vaccine.

    The Moderna vaccine, which does not require the supercold storage needed for the Pfizer product, is to be distributed directly to the providers who will administer it.

    It will be several months before the vaccine will reach the general public. After healthcare workers and nursing home residents — the top priority recipients because of their risk of exposure and, in the case of the nursing home residents, their vulnerability — so-called essential workers will be next in line for the shots. The specific criteria for that group are still being refined.

    In the meantime, said Van Dijk, state residents need to maintain strategies to prevent transmission of the coronavirus: staying home and away from everyone not in their immediate household; wearing masks when around others who aren’t part of their household; avoiding gatherings; washing hands frequently; and getting a COVID-19 test if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if they are experiencing symptoms from the virus.

     

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.