MILWAUKEE - Health care providers like Ascension Wisconsin officially opened its COVID-19 vaccination clinics on Thursday, Dec. 17 after just a handful of employees received shots Wednesday during a final walkthrough.
Still, health officials say all 50,000 vaccine doses currently being stored across the state aren't going to be used overnight.
As of Wednesday, more than 1,000 frontline health care workers from 45 Wisconsin counties have received their first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
"They’ve seen so much suffering on the frontlines," said Andrea Palm, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) secretary-designee.
The shots are part of the initial shipment of the vaccine as manufacturing ramps up. Health officials say the number of vaccinations administered each day will also start out slow as providers balance the urgency of protecting their employees from the virus with logistical challenges.
"There’s new workflows that we want to make sure we’re doing exactly right with no mistakes, and that takes some time to scale up," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases.
Ultra-low temperature freezer at the Milwaukee VA for storing COVID-19 vaccine
More than 400,000 health care workers are eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1A. So far, the first 50,000 doses have arrived at eight regional hubs across the state, each equipped with the ultra-cold freezer necessary for proper storage. The hubs then distribute the doses to the vaccinators.
"That ultra-cold storage and the handling of that vaccine makes it very fragile," said Palm. "Health care providers are understandably being careful in making sure that they are dotting all the ‘i’s and crossing all the ‘t’s before they start taking that vaccine out of ultra-cold storage, because once it thaws, there’s a very small window for its use."
The DHS will also be launching a dashboard on its website in the near future that will not only track the number of COVID-19 vaccinations but where around the state they are being administered.