Firefighters, Police To Get COVID-19 Shots Starting Next Week

Evers, State Officials Ask Federal Government For More Doses

A member of the Mississippi National Guard receives a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
A member of the Mississippi National Guard receives a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in his arm, by a fellow guard member, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, in Flowood, Miss. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photos

On Monday, state health officials announced Wisconsin would begin the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations starting Jan. 18.

The very same day, Wisconsin’s governor renewed his call for the federal government to release more COVID-19 vaccine to the state, saying this week marks the first time Wisconsin’s demand for doses to fight the disease exceeds supply. The governor said he doesn’t expect wide scale vaccinations for the public until June.

“Our vaccine team is working across the state on vaccine distribution, and so many Wisconsinites are ready to get vaccinated and get back to our Wisconsin way of life,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a press release. “In a state where our statewide mitigation strategies have been struck down and challenged time and time again, it is absolutely critical that Wisconsin get additional doses of vaccine to meet demand and box in the virus.”

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The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced Monday that firefighters and police would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week. This begins phase 1b, which is also expected to include teachers, correctional workers and those 70 years and older.

The Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Andrea Palm on Monday asking for the immediate activation of this next priority group. So far only first responders are eligible in phase 1b.

The pharmacy society said its members are ready to provide rapid vaccination.

“By deploying vaccine broadly to Wisconsin pharmacies, including pharmacies in rural and underserved areas, and by activating an additional group of recipients, the State’s communities will be empowered to exponentially increase their vaccination efforts,” wrote Danielle Womack, vice president of public affairs for the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.

Pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS are currently vaccinating those in Wisconsin nursing homes and preparing to begin vaccinations in assisted living, under a federal partnership. Other pharmacies will be involved in a more wide scale effort but their impact won’t be uniform across the state.

Four Wisconsin counties don’t have a pharmacy that can provide immunization services and six other counties only have one pharmacy, said John Eich, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health.

A state advisory panel will begin to accept public comment Wednesday for who should get vaccinated after phase 1a.

Local Pandemic Restrictions Change

Meanwhile, Dane County is issuing a new public health order for the existing one that expires this week.

The new order will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people, with social distancing. It goes into effect Jan. 13, at 12:01 a.m. and will be in effect for 28 days.

Dane County’s previous public health order allowed indoor gatherings of up to 10 people and 25 outdoors. It also continued face covering requirements and limitations on taverns, allowing customers inside only for the purposes of ordering, pick-up, and payment of food or beverage. Those restrictions will remain in place.

On Monday, Dane County reported 71 people hospitalized with COVID-19, the lowest it has been since Oct. 18. But health officials caution that’s still high compared to early in the pandemic.

Editor’s note: Danielle Kaeding contributed reporting to this story.