Wisconsin's coronavirus vaccine rollout picks up pace

Wisconsin health officials say 110,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since the rollout began on Dec. 14 -- that's up 25,000 since the beginning of the week.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Thursday, Jan. 7, announced that vaccine doses will be arriving at assisted living facilities on Jan. 25. The arrival will mark the beginning of the end of vaccinations for Priority Group 1A.

Vaccine rollout of Phase 1A is speeding up across the state -- 6,000 on Monday, 8,000 on Tuesday and 11,600 on Wednesday.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk anticipates that the first round of shots at the state's 360 skilled nursing facilities, which got underway on Dec. 28, will be completed by the end of the month.

"We have notified CDC that we are ready to start that portion of the program," said Willems Van Dijk.

Rick Abrams, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association (WHCA) and the Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living (WiCAL), explains that, due to limited supply, the state divided long-term care facilities into two subgroups -- skilled nursing and assisted living, with staff and residents and skilled nursing getting priority.

"I applaud them for the planning and the thoughtfulness," Abrams said. "It makes perfect sense to focus on the Wisconsinites who are most ill. And the Wisconsinites who are most ill are going to be residents of our skilled nursing facilities."

With the focus on Phase 1A soon shifting to the assisted living facilities, Willems Van Dijk said the state will need to bank 140,000 doses of its total allocation -- a requirement of the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. So far, 50,000 doses have been reserved.

"Where is will be significantly fewer Moderna doses while we are transferring the remaining 90,000 doses over to that program," said Willems Van Dijk.

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The vaccines for those at assisted living facilities will be administered by Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, which are already administering vaccines to those in skilled nursing facilities.

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