Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is underway in Price County, according to Public Health Officer Michelle Edwards.
Wisconsin is currently in the first stage of vaccine distribution, dubbed Phase 1a, during which healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are the first groups eligible for receiving the vaccine.
Marshfield Clinic and Aspirus are currently in the process of vaccinating their own employees, and Marshfield — along with Price County Public Health — is also coordinating the vaccination of healthcare workers unaffiliated with either of these organizations, such as dentistists, home health workers, and others who want to receive immunization.
Long-term care facilities receive the vaccine through pharmacies contracted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A post published on Park Manor’s Facebook page said that employees and residents received their first of two vaccinations on Jan. 8.
As of Monday, Marshfield Clinic reported the vaccine has been given to 123 Marshfield Medical Center-Park Falls providers and staff, representing 90% of their frontline staff.
Edwards noted that at this point, Price County is close to completing Phase 1a.
The second stage in the vaccine distribution, as laid out by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is Phase 1b. ACIP recommends essential workers — including teachers, police, firefighters, corrections officers, utility workers, food and agriculture workers — be among the next group eligible for the vaccine, along with those age 75 and older, but the Wisconsin State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee will have the final say on who will be included in this phase.
The date Phase 1b will be enacted is also in the hands of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. While an exact start date for Phase 1b is unknown at this point, according to reporting by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is expecting a final decision by the end of the month.
During this phase, Price County Public Health will be offering the vaccine in addition to the local clinics.
The next stage recommended by ACIP is Phase 1c, during which they recommend adults at high risk or over the age of 65 should receive the vaccine.
The final stage is Phase 2, when the vaccine will be eligible to the general public. The timeline for this is yet unknown, but Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting indicated the Wisconsin Department of Health Services expected this may take place by early summer.
“When we do start offering the vaccine to the public, we’ll let people know through press releases and Facebook, and then they can call Public Health so we can place an order [for the vaccine],” Edwards told the Review.
Distributing this vaccine is a somewhat elongated process, according to Edwards, which accounts in part for the slow timeline. Due to the newness of the vaccine, each person who is vaccinated is monitored for at least 15 minutes for any signs of an allergic response. Social distancing requirements also limit the number of people who can gather at any one time to receive the vaccine and undergo the monitoring period.
Distribution is further complicated by the very short shelf-life of the vaccine, which generally must be used within five days upon arrival.
Edwards said the local health department has no say over which vaccine — Pfizer or Moderna — they receive.