Wisconsin Teachers, Older Adults Could Be Next In Line For COVID-19 Shots

Those 70 And Older Likely To Get Limited Coronavirus Vaccine Under State Plan

Jean Allen, 96, receives a COVID-19 vaccination
Jean Allen, 96, left, receives the first shot of the Pfizer vaccination for COVID-19, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, from a Walgreens Pharmacist, right, at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. The facility had an outbreak of COVID-19 in May of 2020 that resulted in more than 100 positive cases among staff and residents, including Allen, and the deaths of 20 residents and two staff members. Ted S. Warren/AP Photos

Wisconsin is a step closer to deciding who should be next to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday a state advisory panel of health experts recommended teachers, correctional workers and older adults be included in the next priority group.

Those 70 and older would be eligible for shots under a plan given preliminary approval by the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) vaccine subcommittee. Federal officials with the Trump administration would like to see slightly younger people get vaccinated next, suggesting states lower the cutoff age to 65.

“I think everyone’s moving in that direction. COVID-19 is most lethal for those over the age of 60,” said LeadingAge Wisconsin President John Sauer, who noted 90 percent of coronavirus deaths in Wisconsin are people that age or older.

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The pace of vaccinations depends on how effectively the state distributes doses and the amount allocated by the federal government, which currently falls short of what Wisconsin needs said Gov. Tony Evers. In a statement issued Monday, Evers called for a larger share of the nation’s vaccine supply.

Both the Trump administration and President-elect Joe Biden have said they intend to increase the amount of vaccines to states by no longer setting aside doses in case manufacturing doesn’t keep up with demand.

Tuesday’s announcement by federal officials to speed up vaccinations by making more doses available to states was welcomed by Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. But it’s not clear yet, she said, if this is a one time increase or if the increased supply will continue. DHS is also seeking clarification about the future supply of second doses and when to expect them. This will affect who gets the vaccine next and when.

“This increase in weekly allocation will allow us to expand eligibility and get more vaccines into arms more quickly, ” Palm said in an email.

As of Jan. 12 163,371 doses have been administered out of the 373,100 shipped to Wisconsin, according to state data. So far shots have gone mostly to frontline health care workers and those in nursing homes. Vaccinations for those in assisted living will begin later this month.

Police and firefighters will begin getting vaccinated next Monday, ahead of others recommended for inclusion in a second priority group that still awaits approval. That group, known as phase 1b, also includes K-12 educators, those living in group homes, correctional workers and inmates, and mink farmers.

Final determination will be made by the state Department of Health Services after a public comment period which begins Wednesday.