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Steil: Evers must be transparent with vaccine plan

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 31, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil is calling on Gov. Tony Evers to be transparent and accountable in his COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. 

The Janesville Republican said there are a lot of open questions about how the Evers administration plans to distribute vaccines to Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations. 

“I can’t tell you how many people have called me, reached out, some with tears in their eyes as either frontline workers, nurses and doctors, or those who are most vulnerable, people in long-term care facilities, trying to understand when they’re going to get the vaccine,” Steil told Empower Wisconsin Tuesday on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN. 

He’s not alone. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) is asking the same of the governor. 

The lawmakers, according to a press release, are urging Evers to provide answers to the following questions about Wisconsin’s vaccination strategy. 

  • What is your administration doing to distribute and administer the vaccine effectively and rapidly?
  • When do you expect members of the general public to have access to the vaccine?
  • How will the vaccine be distributed geographically across Wisconsin?
  • What partnerships are in place across the state with health departments and providers to help carry out your vaccination plan? How are you working with partners across the state to communicate scientifically accurate information about the importance of getting vaccinated when the vaccine is widely available?
  • We understand that the state has received unclear information from officials with Operation Warp Speed (OWS) regarding vaccine allocations. What additional resources or information do you need to ensure that vaccine distribution in the state will be conducted in an efficient manner? What steps have you taken to ensure that there is a high level of transparency for members of the public during this time?
  • The Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) has worked to convey accurate information about the spread and impact of COVID-19 in the state. Can you describe how vaccine information will be incorporated into this effort and made available to the public? 

As Wisconsin Spotlight reported earlier this month, Wisconsin would not be able to distribute the vaccine to nursing homes until this week at the earliest. 

On Wednesday, following public pressure, Evers finally announced the start of on-site vaccinations at Wisconsin nursing homes via the Pharmacy Partnership Program for Long-Term Care. The public-private partnership enlists Walgreens or CVS pharmacy chains to provide free, on-site vaccinations for residents and staff. 

“This partnership will help reduce the strain on our long-term care facilities and help deliver the vaccine to those in higher-risk populations,” Evers said in a press release. “Protecting our most vulnerable Wisconsinites is a top priority and will be a critical step for the success of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Vaccine Program,” Evers says.

But critics say the administration has been slow to respond and has failed to clearly communicate its plan of action. 

“This administration is notorious for poor planning. Look at the Department of Workforce Development debacle,” said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, referring to the administration’s problems with settling thousands of unemployment claims. “This is just par for the course for them.”

Steil pointed to the same problems. 

“We must ensure the State of Wisconsin has a plan in place to disseminate information to the public and allocate the vaccine. Wisconsin’s vaccination campaign must be fair and transparent, and we must ensure anyone who wants to receive a vaccine has the ability to do so,” the congressman said. 

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