Gov. Evers requests COVID-19 vaccine priority distribution

Gov. Tony Evers says that the federal government should prioritize Wisconsin when it comes time to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter sent Thursday, Dec. 3 to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Alex Azar, Gov. Evers made his state's case.

"Wisconsin is uniquely facing challenges that other states are not. While other governors are working to turn the dial as case surges, our statewide mitigation efforts have been struck down, enjoined and are currently the subject of ongoing litigation," Gov. Evers said.

The governor said, given the state's disadvantage in fighting the virus, that he is asking Azar to allocate first shipments of doses to Wisconsin and in quantities large enough to vaccinate all 450,000 members of the state's health care workforce and other high-risk populations. An estimated 150,000 people live in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

"Our frontline health care workers should be at the front of the line because they're the ones who have been putting their lives on the line to protect us," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard operate a mobile COVID-19 test center on the grounds of Miller Park on October 29, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Initial estimates indicate that Wisconsin will receive 50,000 vaccine shots in the first week once a vaccine is approved.

"We anticipate getting another allocation each week, which will be different each week depending on how manufacturing is going," said Andrea Palm, Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designee.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is currently in the process of accepting applications from health care providers, pharmacies, correctional facilities, community organizations and other entities that plan to administer the vaccine.

Wisconsin's nearly 100 local health departments and tribal health agencies will ultimately be responsible for coordinating distribution between registered vaccinators and the state.

"They can then place their orders. They can tell us how many vaccines they need to vaccinate their healthcare workers, for example," Palm said. "Then we can roll that up into our request to the feds for distribution to those healthcare providers."

The mayor of the state's biggest city wants to be ready for distribution when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a vaccine.

"This is going to be a months-long process," Barrett said. "We're optimistic that a vaccine is coming, but this is not going to be an overnight flip the switch, this problem is solved."

With essential workers and vulnerable populations near the top of the list for a vaccine, leaders say the general population would likely not get the vaccine until spring 2021.

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Gov. Evers also sent a letter to the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation on Thursday, calling on them to approve additional federal funding for the pandemic before it expires at the end of the year.

Part of that funding, the governor said, would go toward vaccine infrastructure readiness and education programs.

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