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Local officials frustrated over Evers’ vaccine distribution

Empower Wisconsin | Feb.1, 2021

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on in Milwaukee about the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in the state’s largest city.

While health and city leaders blame each other, they seem to agree that the glacial pace of getting shots into arms begins at the top — Gov. Tony Evers and his administration’s many failures in moving the life-saving vaccines.

Milwaukee Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson was grilled by the city’s Public Safety and Health Committee last week. She blamed the county’s vaccine distribution problems on the lack of an electric medical records system before the pandemic struck.

If the blame game sounds familiar, it is. Evers and his secretary-designee of the dysfunctional state Department of Workforce Development have blamed “antiquated” technology for the massive backlog of Unemployment Insurance claims that piled up after Evers statewide lockdowns.

Like conservative lawmakers who have seen the Evers’ administration’s incompetence and lack of urgency in both the unemployment crisis and the vaccine distribution disaster, Milwaukee city council members aren’t buying the old technology argument.

“I do want to share just general disappointment that I feel that we’ve known a vaccine was coming for quite some time, and to be exploring systems right now and not a few months ago, I guess I just don’t really understand that,”Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, chairwoman of the city’s health committee said.

Critics of the Evers administration statewide distribution plan — or lack thereof — have expressed the same complaints.

“You would have thought they would have started planning this out (earlier),” Senate President Chris Kapenga told Empower Wisconsin last week on the Jay Weber Show. “It appears there was no planning done and nobody has a playbook.”

Dimitrijevic also pointed to the inadequate amount of vaccine the city is receiving from the state, saying she didn’t think it was getting a proportional amount as the largest municipality and one with unique social and health factors, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

Wisconsin ranked 48th on Friday in percentage of distributed vaccines administered, according to one health care tracker.  It finished ahead of only Alabama and Pennsylvania. According to the Centers for Disease Control COVID vaccinations tracker, Wisconsin vaccinators had administered 406,869 of 793,750 doses sent to the state by the federal government, or about 51 percent.

Kapenga said if the state Department of Health Services were a business managing the distribution campaign, it would have gone out of business long ago.

“If these were regular employees in a regular business they would have been fired because there has been a complete incompetence in execution of what the goals need to be,” the senator said.

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