Graham Kilmer

Vaccines for Senior Citizens Start Soon

As of January 25, people 65 and older can get vaccinated. State committee still finalizing other recommendations.

By - Jan 19th, 2021 04:25 pm
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has issued new guidance for COVID-19 vaccinations that make residents 65 years or older eligible for the vaccine.

This new eligibility will go into action on January 25th and greatly widen the number of people eligible for the vaccine. It’s estimated there are more than 700,000 state residents 65 years or older.

People 65 or older have had the highest rate of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. “Prioritizing this population will help save lives,” said Andrea Palm, DHS secretary designee, in a statement released Tuesday.

The new eligible population can access the vaccine through their health care provider, a local pharmacy or through their local health department. Currently, there are 1,200 registered vaccinators in the state.

For those that will become newly eligible for vaccination next week and would like to make an appointment, think about where you would get your flu shot and visit their website, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS deputy secretary.

This new guidance will inaugurate the first community-level vaccination effort since the first vaccine was approved. Currently, only frontline healthcare personnel, residents and staff of skilled nursing and long term care facilities, and police officers and firefighters were eligible for the vaccine.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the 65 and older age group and since then, a number of municipalities and states around the country have adopted it for their second phase of vaccination.

The President and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, Eric Borgerding, said the state’s healthcare systems are “anxious” to move on to vaccinating the most at-risk group in the state. This sentiment was echoed by Sarah Sorum, CEO of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.

DHS officials have reiterated that in order to increase the pace and breadth of vaccinations the state needs a greater supply of vaccines from the federal government.

Each week, DHS surveys the state’s registered vaccinators to discern how much vaccine to request from the federal government the following week. Van Dijk said the state’s weekly allotment has continued to be approximately 70,000 doses a week, regardless of the size of the pool of people eligible for the vaccine. “Again, this will take some time,” she said, if the federal government does not provide the state with more vaccine.

Over the past week, more than 84,000 doses have been administered to state residents, according to public data from DHS.

The latest data shows 248,185 doses have been administered in Wisconsin and more than 40,000 people have received both doses of vaccine. The majority of doses have gone to people between the ages of 25 and 65. The majority of doses have also gone to women.

Last week, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) released a draft of its recommendations for groups that should be eligible for the next phase of vaccinations — phase 1b. It included those 70 or older, IRIS and Family Care Recipients, residents and staff of congregant living facilities, frontline essential workers — such as non-EMS first responders, educations and childcare workers, non-frontline healthcare personnel — and workers involved in mink husbandry, which has been associated with mutations in the virus.

A few days later, Tim Metcalfe, owner of Metcalfe’s Market, a Wisconsin chain of groceries with locations in Dane and Milwaukee Counties, started a public conversation of groups that have been left out of phase 1b when he released a letter he wrote to Governor Tony Evers detailing his frustration that grocery workers were not included in the next phase.

“Grocery workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and are as critical to our food supply as farmers,” Metcalfe said. “While our company takes every safety precaution possible for our team, the reality is that this team has been exposed to members of the public every day and put at increased risk of infection for nearly a year now.”

Asked during a media briefing Tuesday why grocery workers were left off, Willems Van Dijk said no decisions regarding phase 1b vaccine recommendations has been made.

At a meeting tomorrow, SDMAC will review and potentially make revisions to their draft list and vote on whether or not to advance their recommendations.

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