Wisconsin has ramped up its vaccine rollout, as more groups are now eligible to receive the vaccine and the state will receive doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
As of Tuesday, 16 percent of the Wisconsin population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Department of Health Services (DHS) dashboard. This corresponds to 1,466,654 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine distributed throughout the state. Of these doses, 510,239 were a second dose. This means more than half a million people in the state have completed their vaccine series.
Racial disparities are still apparent in the vaccine distribution. Of white residents in the state, 15.5 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This compares to 11.2 percent of American Indian residents, 7.1 percent of Asian residents and 5.1 percent of Black residents. Black residents have 2.1 times greater hospitalization rates from COVID-19 and American Indians have 1.5 times greater death rates compared to white residents.
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that Wisconsin is one of the top states when it comes to distributing the vaccine, according to a WisEye Tuesday media briefing. The national average for distribution of the allotted vaccines is 78 percent; Wisconsin has given 93 percent of the available doses.
Before Monday, frontline healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, police and fire personnel, correctional staff and adults aged 65 and older were eligible to receive vaccinations.
As of March 1, eligibility has extended to people in the 1B group, which includes education and child care staff, individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public facing essential workers, non-frontline essential healthcare personnel and staff and residents of congregant living facilities. For this 1B group, education and child care staff are given full priority.
Van Dijk explained that 47,000 to 48,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be shipped to Wisconsin next week. These doses will be allocated mostly to educators first in order to make way for the rest of those eligible in the 1B group. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose and only requires refrigeration, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are two-dose vaccines and must be kept in ultra-cold storage.
After this initial shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the state does not expect more of those doses until closer to the end of March.
At the briefing, when asked how Wisconsinites would be notified when they become eligible, Van Dijk suggested people monitor the DHS website, register with the new DHS vaccine registry system — which will add more providers over time — and call their physician’s office to ask about their eligibility if they have a regular primary care provider.
“Having more doses available to us means that we can vaccinate more people. And the more people who get vaccinated, the safer we all are,” said Van Dijk. “We have built an impressive vaccination effort here in Wisconsin and we look forward to continuing to ensure we get shots in arms as quickly, as safely and as equitably as possible.”
The state is still making decisions about which groups will be included in the next wave of eligibility. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. was on track to have vaccines for every adult by the end of May, according to the New York Times.
state news writer