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WI groups now recommended for vaccine have been on federal list for weeks

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee recommended Thursday educators, grocery workers and bus drivers be part of the next group eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Federal guidelines had recommended those groups be in the next phase since December.

An SDMAC subcommittee added grocery workers and transit workers to its recommended list for Phase 1B on Wednesday following public comments over the past week.

The full SDMAC accepted the recommendation and will now turn its list over to the Department of Health Services.

DHS has already approved vaccinations for police, fire and EMS workers, as well as adults 65 and older as part of the group in 1B.

The questions over whether Wisconsin would include educators, grocery workers, and bus drivers in the next group caused confusion.

Mercyhealth said it planned a mass vaccination clinic for Janesville school workers because of federal guidelines that placed educators in Phase 1B; DHS officials said Mercy should have contacted them first about possible redistribution of the doses because the state had not finalized its list of people eligible in the next phase.

On a call with reporters Thursday, DHS said it was being deliberate with finalizing the list because a limited supply of vaccine from the federal government meant it was taking longer to clear those in Phase 1A—frontline health care workers, and residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

"If they're not making enough, that is the problem or, frankly, overpromise from the federal government," said Gov. Tony Evers.

Evers said the state could have clarified earlier all the groups that would be approved for Phase 1B but it wouldn't make difference due to a lack of doses.

"Even if when the CDC made those recommendations and we said 'yes that's a priority for us,' we'd still be doing people at nursing homes and assisted living and other folks that were a priority," Evers said.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the agency was still working to bring new vaccinators into the program, which will help allow people now eligible to set up a vaccination appointment, particularly seniors.

"We've enrolled many, many more vaccinators," Van Dijk said. "We're over 1,300 vaccinators across our state and we encourage them to wait a week or two and call again and they may very well get a different response."

Data from the CDC indicated Wisconsin, as of Thursday, had administered the third-fewest doses of the vaccine per 100,000 people among all 50 states. However, the same tracker showed Wisconsin had received the fifth-fewest doses per 100,000.

Van Dijk said earlier in the week there was a lag in the CDC's data that did not reflect doses reported days earlier by DHS. It was unclear how many other states were reporting similar delays.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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