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As long-term care vaccination program ends, advocates call it “a tremendous success”

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MADISON (WKOW) -- For the last four months, a federal program has been helping vaccinate people in Wisconsin's long-term care facilities. State health officials say that program is wrapping up, but advocates say it worked perfectly.

"This program has been a tremendous success," said Rick Abrams with the Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living.

State health officials say 62,000 residents and 47,000 staff members are now vaccinated thanks to the program. Health officials in Dane County say there have been no coronavirus cases linked to clusters in long-term care facilities in the last two weeks -- the first time that's happened since Public Health Madison and Dane County began tracking clusters.

"When we spoke at the end of 2020, some people were concerned about how slow it was rolling out," Abrams said. "In the three to four months since the program started at the end of December, I have yet to receive a negative comment from the membership."

Abrams says he feels confident that anyone who works or lives in a facility who wanted a vaccine in the last four months was able to get one.

The program connected facilities directly to pharmacies, which administered the vaccines. State health officials say more than 2,900 facilities got three vaccine clinics each.

"With our residents, vaccination rates were easily over 80 percent," Abrams said. "In our nursing facilities, employee vaccination rates were easily over 70 percent."

Right now in Wisconsin, people 65 and older have the lowest weekly new case rates of any age group -- and Abrams says it's because of the program.

He says now that the program is ending, the facilities are each setting up systems to vaccinate any more people who want vaccines.

If a booster shot is required for everyone again in the future, Abrams has confidence.

"I feel very confident that at the state level, we will have a ready partner in the Department of Health Services," he said. "When we get the inkling (that a booster shot will be required), we'll start working hard to put together the kind of plan that the Long-Term Care Pharmacy partnership was."

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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