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COVID-19 vaccine concerns: Breaking down next phases of distribution

The vaccine could be available to the public in spring at the earliest, but health officials say it could be several months.
Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 6:50 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out in hospitals across Wisconsin, NBC15 received multiple questions from viewers with concerns about the order of distribution. NBC15 reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to break down the next phases.

DHS explained they determine each phase based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee as well as a state advisory committee (SDMAC). Wisconsin is still in phase 1A of distribution, which includes frontline health care workers and nursing home residents.

In the last week of 2020, Sauk Prairie Healthcare in Prairie du Sac received its first doses of the vaccine.

“It looks like we will have enough to vaccinate our entire organization for Phase 1A,” said Sauk Prairie Healthcare pharmacy director Matthew Garvin.

DHS expects the first phase to take several months before moving on the Phase 1B, which includes people 75 and older and frontline essential workers.

“The most difficult part of this is going to actually be identifying those people who are eligible under Phase 1B who aren’t our patients already,” Garvin explained.

The next phase will be 1C, which will include people 65 and older, people with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers not included in Phase 1B.

Hospitals like Sauk Prairie Healthcare are starting to prepare for wider distribution.

“It may be some sort of hybrid model, where we do something maybe here in the hospital as well as at our clinics. It could also involve a drive-thru,” Garvin described.

However, there are still several phases before the vaccine will be available to the public. Some estimates predict it will happen in spring at the earliest, but it could take longer.

“Our clinics have been getting calls, I think even our registration, our front desk people get calls,” Garvin said, adding he has gotten emails from people asking to be added to the “waitlist.”

DHS told NBC15 people’s health care systems will contact them when it is time to get their shot. Garvin said he is encouraging Sauk Prairie Healthcare patients to enroll in their health care portal and use the mobile app.

“We’re going to be using a couple different ways of notifying them,” he said.

Health officials are reminding people there is a long road and asking them to be patient.

“There is going to be vaccine in the future, we just don’t have an exact answer when,” Garvin said.

UW Health also reached out to patients, explaining there is no waitlist for the vaccine and asking them not to call health care providers with questions about the vaccine.

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