MADISON — Just under 50,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed across Wisconsin this week, with more on the way.
Gov. Tony Evers' Office explained Monday that the 49,725 initial doses are being transported to eight hubs in the state. Those facilities have the ultra-low temperature storage required to keep the vaccine fresh for use.
The governor says he has full faith in the people trusted with getting the vaccine to residents who need it.
“I fully trust in the expertise of our scientists, researchers, and public health experts who are guiding our planning, preparation, and distribution. They have put a lot of effort into ensuring that the vaccine infrastructure and clinics are ready for the successful rollout of our Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine Program," Gov. Evers said in a statement.
The effort spans across a number of departments across the Badger State. The governor's office says the state Department of Health Services has been working closely with Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard, as well as local, state and federal partners.
These initial doses will go to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, per phase 1a of Wisconsin's specific vaccine recommendations. Doses will be shipped to other parts of the population once more are available.
"We are asking Wisconsinites to be patient and continue to help slow the spread of the virus by staying home as much as possible, wearing a mask, physical distancing, getting tested, and washing your hands," said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm in a statement.
The governor's office did not identify the eight hubs receiving doses, for security purposes. UW Health's Madison facilities identified itself as one of the eight hubs.
The doses in Wisconsin come after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus vaccine.
Also on Monday, the first shipment of doses arrived at UW Health facilities in Madison. Those doses will be given to UW Health employees working on the front line of the pandemic.
As some Wisconsinites get their first dose of the vaccine state health officials emphasize face masks, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing continue to play a critical role in the pandemic.
"Vaccine is another layer in the fight against COVID, but it doesn't mean we can abandon everything else that we have been doing thus far," said Stephanie Schauer, Division of Public Health Immunization Program Manager.
Meanwhile, the DHS officially activated the federal government’s pharmacy distribution program for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The program is an effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the national pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS. The program will use the Moderna vaccine pending its upcoming Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
Michigan-based retailer Meijer said in a statement that its locations in Wisconsin are getting ready to distribute the vaccine.
“Our pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians throughout the Midwest continue to prepare for the unprecedented challenge of vaccinating a very large number of people in the near future," Meijer Vice President of Pharmacy Jason Beauch said.
Meijer adds they are considering setting up special centers in their stores to distribute vaccines.
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center is 1 of 37 VA sites that will hold Pfizer's vaccine. They recently got an ultra-low freezer specifically to meet the storage requirements. The VA's supply is separate from the state's allocation, and as of Monday the Chief of Pharmacy Dr. Kim Bell said they were awaiting confirmation on how many doses they will get and when.
Meanwhile, their staff has continued training on how to handle the vaccine and logistics of administering it.
"We’ve been working with training vaccinators so they’re all comfortable with the vaccination technique and all of the documentation that goes along with providing the vaccines," said Dr. Bell.