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The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has announced that police and fire personnel will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning January 18, which begins the first step into phase 1B for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has been vaccinating the 1A population since December 14, which includes frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

There are 1,098 entities fully registered and ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin. Local health departments will be leading the coordination for the vaccination of police and fire personnel, as well as emergency medical services and unaffiliated health care providers in their jurisdictions. Local health departments will work in partnership with local vaccinators, including health care systems and pharmacies. To ensure vaccine access statewide, DHS will also work alongside local health departments in coordinating with police and fire associations.

“Our goal is to get vaccine to everyone in Wisconsin who wants it as quickly and safely as possible,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Our systems are up and running, now we need more vaccine to get through as many Wisconsinites who want to protect themselves against COVID-19 as possible. We urge everyone to continue wearing masks, washing hands, and socially distancing as we continue to vaccinate more Wisconsinites.”

An estimated 550,000 Wisconsinites qualify under Phase 1A, and as of January 10, the state has administered 151,502 vaccine doses. Wisconsin’s 1A population is proportionally very large in comparison to other states. Currently, the federal government allocates vaccine based on general population (not 1A population), which lengthened the time to get through 1A for Wisconsin.

DHS is still awaiting the final recommendations for the proposed populations for Phase 1B from the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC). Many providers have worked through a portion of their 1A staff and have begun to vaccinate unaffiliated providers such as dentists, emergency medical responders, and public health workers who are eligible in 1A.

In addition to health providers working their way through frontline health care staff, 5,063 facilities have enrolled in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program. Since December 28, 193 skilled nursing facilities have completed initial doses vaccination.

The program was launched to ensure that some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations are protected against COVID-19. The private-public partnership pairs eligible long-term care facilities with Walgreens or CVS to provide free, on-site COVID-19 vaccination for residents and staff. Many clinics are scheduled this week, and pharmacies will continue to work through that population through February.

As pharmacies complete their initial round of vaccine in skilled nursing facility program, they will begin to administer vaccine in assisted living facilities. In addition, some of long-term care facilities have contracted directly with other providers, such as local pharmacies or public health departments, and also are able to vaccinate at this time.

DHS has been working closely with nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the pandemic, including holding twice-monthly webinars to provide updates, guidance, and answer questions.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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