MILWAUKEE - Millions of doses of the first-ever COVID-19 vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now being distributed across the country. Shipments are expected to arrive at their destinations -- including in Milwaukee -- on Monday.
UPS and FedEx will be shipping 6.4 million doses across the country, and the vaccines must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius to work.
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center was selected as one of 37 VA sites across the country to receive some of the first vaccine batch.
Milwaukee County health officials hope to distribute the vaccine first to those most at risk -- health care workers, emergency responders and nursing homes. It may take some time before it gets to everyone else.
"By activating today we have requested that the program starts in the minimal interval of activation and program start and that is two weeks," Juli Willems Van Dijk said. "It is our hope that we will be starting to see vaccinations in our skilled nursing facilities around the end of the month."
The Department of Health Services announced COVID-19 vaccinations will roll out starting with phase 1A, for healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Monday the state received nearly 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and by Wednesday will have the first allocation of 49,725 that will be sent to eight different hubs. Hoping to get more in the subsequent weeks, as these shipments are a drop in the bucket for those in this first group.
Still, health officials say this record-setting vaccine which is authorized for ages 16 and older gets them closer to the goal of distributing the vaccination to the public safely and equitably, indicating there would be no out-of-pocket cost and given via a health care provider of a community clinic.
Meanwhile, the first batches that are going to the most vulnerable like those at the Milwaukee VA medical center will be a complex process that will take months.
"While we undertake this work, the virus will still be here and we will still be in danger of spreading it if we do not take preventive steps," she said.
Health officials warn that, even with this progress, the pandemic could get worse before it gets better.
The vaccine is currently authorized for ages 16 and older. There have not been any studies done on what effect, if any, it may have on pregnancies.
Looking ahead to the possibility of more getting more vaccines soon, once the FDA approves the Moderna vaccine that would bring in another 101,000 doses.