Virus Outbreak

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna Inc. says it will ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Plans are underway in Wisconsin for distributing the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. The two COVID-19 vaccines will be reviewed Thursday for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Each of the state’s seven health care emergency readiness coalition (HERC) regions will receive an allotment from the first round of 49,725 doses of a vaccine produced by Pfizer and provided to the state to distribute. Priority will be given to health care workers, but when that may happen will be determined by a federal committee’s recommendations on dosage and who should not receive the vaccine because of possible complications.

"I think it’s important to make sure it's done in a well-planned, careful manner and that safety is not compromised at the expense of speed," said Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The state has more than 450,000 health care workers. Even if both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines get approval for emergency use from the federal government, it won’t be enough to vaccinate everyone at once.

According to a state vaccination plan, the priority for who should get the COVID-19 vaccine will be health care workers, then people living and working at long-term care facilities, essential workers, and those over 65 years old.

On Monday, UW Health announced it is preparing to serve as a central storage facility for a HERC region’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at a very cold temperature to remain stable: colder than -94 degrees Fahrenheit. The HERC region covers south-central Wisconsin.

"These vaccines will be going to frontline healthcare workers first, and there are still uncertainties around the quantities we’ll get and the timing of their arrival," Matt Anderson, UW Health senior medical director ambulatory operations, said in a press release. "The public must remain diligent as it will not be widely available anytime soon."

It won't be several months until the vaccines are widely available, and health officials across the country continue to urge people to maintain safety measures such as physically distancing, wearing face coverings when you have to go out, and staying home and sticking to people in your household as much as possible.

Hospitalizations in Wisconsin peaked November 16 with 2,277 patients. Since then, hospitalizations have declined, for both regular and ICU beds. At the peak, 456 people were in intensive care with COVID-19. That dropped to 325 the first week of December, when 14 percent of the state’s ICU beds were available.

A coalition including hospitals called "Stop the COVID Spread!" is asking people not to let their guard down. In their fifth public service announcement, the group says Wisconsin continues to face "unrelenting COVID-19 case counts with hospitals throughout the state operating near or at full capacity."

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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