Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 22, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Nearly 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses wait to be administered as the Evers’ administration’s slow vaccine rollout limps along.
According to data from the state Department of Health Services, the federal government had allocated nearly 780,000 doses to the state as of Thursday, with some 473,000 of that supply ordered to go out to state vaccinators. Of that, 285,358 doses had been injected into the arms of Wisconsin residents.
Gov. Tony Evers has complained that there isn’t enough supply but federal officials say supply is climbing and vaccine manufacturers are meeting demand — that is the demand of the states’ orders.
It’s the Evers administration, bogged down in bureaucracy and stubbornly sticking to long-deliberated vaccination priority lists that keeps Wisconsin trailing its Midwest neighbors and much of the nation in inoculation rates, state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo said this week.
The New Berlin Republican addressed the administration’s case of the slows at a hearing before the Assembly Health Committee, which Sanfelippo chairs.
He said the federal government has made clear that future allotments will be based on how many residents were vaccinated the week before.
“If we continue to drag our feet, it’s only gong to hurt us,” Sanfelippo said, asking a question a lot of Wisconsinites are asking: Why there are so many doses of vaccine not going into arms.
The committee this week took up bills to address the Evers’ administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution fiasco. One measure requires DHS to deliver to the Legislature by Feb. 28 a vaccine distribution plan for all of Wisconsin, and to begin the statewide rollout by March 15.
“We need to start ramping up and being able to mass vaccinate the public,” Sanfelippo said. “To sit back and take this kind of lackadaisical attitude that we seem to be seeing out of DHS … I think we all agree is not acceptable.”
In the interim, a provision in one of the bills requires anybody 60 and over to be moved to the priority list. Data shows people in the age group represent 92 percent of all COVID-related deaths in Wisconsin.
And Republican lawmakers want the Evers big government machine to stop being so rigid with its vaccination priority list. At a recent health committee hearing, vaccinators complained that they have vaccinated everyone eligible in the 1A priority list but could not vaccinate the next group (1B) because a state committee had’t signed off.
The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee finally did meet and approved the 1B group, which will include teachers, police officers, prisoners, public transit employees, grocery store employees and residents 65 and older. Previous recommendations set the category at 70 and over, but the committee expanded the list after receiving some 5,000 comments — most of them criticism — about who was in and who was out of Phase 1B.
DHS still needs to approve the committee’s recommendations.
Kimberly Walz, regional director of government affairs for Walgreens, said the pharmacy chain and COVID-19 vaccine partner CVS have immunized 32,000 residents of long-term care and have another 177 clinics scheduled in the next seven days a lone. But a lot of work remains to vaccinate the the state.