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‘You will not be crowded out’: 65+ doses will continue as educator vaccines begin soon

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The COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna

MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin health officials say the state is on track to start vaccinating teachers and child care workers by their goal date of Mar. 1.

More than 1.2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been given out in Wisconsin, of more than 1.6 million allocated to the state. Wisconsin now ranks fourth in the nation for percentage of vaccine supply used, according to Gov. Tony Evers.

About 47 percent of people over 65 have gotten the vaccine. State health officials had set a plan to move on to the next eligible groups, once at least half of the current phase is vaccinated.

While many are still struggling to find an appointment to get the vaccine, health officials feel confident the state will reach their goal in time to start vaccinating educators.

At a news conference Tuesday, Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said those who are 65 and older who haven't been able to get the vaccine yet should not be worried about being left out.

"I understand if you're in the half of the folks 65 and older who have not received your vaccine that you may be anxious about whether you're ever gonna get one and what I can assure is, you will," she said. "There is more vaccine coming. You will not be crowded out and we will get that vaccine in your arm."

Vaccinators will continue giving shots to the older population as they move on to teachers, too. Educators are the priority in the next eligible group, known as Phase 1B. There are about 225,000 educators and child care workers in Wisconsin.

Health officials say putting them first will help schools reopen safely, with their essential workers protected.

"We want kids our kids in school. We know a number of school districts have been in person since early in the year and we know a number of additional school districts are moving in that direction," said Willems Van Dijk. "We know teachers work every day with a population that is not able to be vaccinated because of their age."

But prioritizing teachers means others in Phase 1B, who also become eligible Mar. 1, will have to wait a bit. That includes grocery and utility workers and bus drivers, among others.

Once the 65 and older population is finished, which could take another month, state officials say they'll open vaccinations up to those next eligible groups.

Meanwhile, DHS is launching a new map online later this week, to help people find a vaccine provider in their area.

Four new state community vaccine sites announced Tuesday will be modeled off the one in Rock County, designed to help reach diverse populations in areas that might not have as many resources.

The priority goes to people who live, work or study in those communities, which means they could vaccinate people who live in Illinois, but spend much of their time in Rock County.

"If we get to 80% in Wisconsin and Illinois is only at 50% ,that's not going to protect us well, so I really want our vaccinators thinking about how we can get everybody protected, yet we also wants Wisconsinites to get the majority of our vaccines because it's allocated based on a population level and that's how the federal government is trying to distribute the vaccine in a fair and equitable manner," Willems Van Dijk said.

The Rock County vaccination site is giving about 200 doses a day and will ramp up as soon as more doses are available.

DHS announced Tuesday that the state expects an increase in doses this week. The federal government has allocated 115,000 doses to Wisconsin, which is up significantly over just a month ago when the state got just 70,000 a week. Still, it's far less than what vaccinators are requesting, about 350,000 doses, according to health officials.

Meanwhile, Walgreens is expecting to get an additional 35,000 doses in Wisconsin to help vaccinate those who aren't going to their health care providers or community sites. This week, UW Health leaders recommended patients start looking elsewhere to find the vaccine, because they couldn't meet demand.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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