Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccinations approach 200, more in store

Nearly 200 health care workers in Wisconsin had received the COVID-19 vaccination as of Wednesday, a number that was expected to grow rapidly in the coming days as the state receives more shipments of the vaccine seen as critical to helping turn the tide of the pandemic.

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, who reported the vaccination totals, also said no spike in coronavirus cases was reported following Thanksgiving weekend, but she urged people to continue to remain vigilant with Christmas and New Year's approaching.

Respiratory therapist Tina Schubert became the first of UW Health’s healthcare heroes to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at approx. 2:30 p.m. CT (Credit: UW Health/John Maniaci)

“We feel pretty good about where our numbers are post-Thanksgiving, recognizing that we are still as a general proposition way too high,” Palm said. “Our hospitals are still strained, they’re still having significant staffing shortages, we’re still seeing too many deaths.”

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Wisconsin's case numbers spiked in mid-November and have been declining since. The state added 2,402 more positive cases on Wednesday, bringing its total to date to nearly 445,000. There were also 74 more deaths, raising the state's pandemic death toll to 4,196.

Wisconsin's death count is the 23rd highest in the country overall and the 31st highest per capita, at 76 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Wisconsin has decreased by 370, a drop of 8.7%. The new cases per capita over the past two weeks in Wisconsin is the 22nd highest rate in the country, according to Johns Hopkins. Wisconsin in November ranked as high as fourth nationwide in new cases per capita.

Although the numbers are trending in the right direction and the vaccine is slowly being given to health care workers, Palm stressed that people still need to wear masks, maintain social distancing, frequently wash their hands and avoid gatherings.

“We need to protect our frontline healthcare workers," she said.

Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center health care workers receive the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Milwaukee.

The state's first round of vaccine is going to health care workers and nursing home residents -- 450,000 people in Phase 1a. Those in long-term care facilities will begin receiving the Moderna vaccine Dec. 28.

"Because it doesn’t require ultra-cold storage, the distribution from Moderna can go directly to the vaccinations," said Palm.

Wisconsin received its first shipment of about 10,000 Pfizer vaccine on Monday at two regional hubs. On Tuesday four other hubs received 22,000 doses and on Wednesday another 18,000 doses were arriving at two more hubs, Palm said.

As of Wednesday, the state’s immunization registry showed that 192 people had received the vaccine, Palm said. Information about how many people have been vaccinated will also eventually be reported on the state Department of Health Services' website, she said.

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant Portage, Michigan. (Photo by Morry Gash - Pool/Getty Images)

The state does not yet know how much more of the Pfizer vaccine it will receive next week, Palm said. The state is anticipating a shipment next week of about 100,000 doses of vaccine made by Moderna.

Moving forward, officials anticipate a shipment of each vaccine on a weekly basis -- stressing though that they ultimately are at the mercy of the federal government.

"How long it takes for us to get through Phase 1a is contingent on our weekly allocation of vaccine," said Palm. "We don't get very good visibility on that. We have short notice about what's coming next."