MILWAUKEE — Vaccination efforts are just starting with healthcare workers and long-term care facilities, meanwhile, there are questions about who is next.
Essential workers, or Group 1B, have been identified as next in line for a COVID-19 vaccine but the guidance on who is considered an essential worker and who will get priority within the group has yet to be finalized.
At the national level, the decision comes down to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). At the state, it is the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC).
"Each of those committees takes into account equity-related issues, disease burden related issues, and will determine how to define those subgroups," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Currently, the City of Milwaukee Health Department has identified essential workers in Group 1B to include those in education, food and agriculture, utilities, police, firefighters, corrections officers, and transportation.
Deciding who is next to get a COVID-19 vaccine is a massive undertaking.
"This is a large number of people including 81 million total in that group in the United States by some estimations, even more, if you use different definitions of essential workers," said Dr. Rajiv Naik, an SDMAC member.
As for the timing of when this group could get a vaccine it is hard to say definitively when you consider manufacturing and logistics of distribution.
During a community briefing on Friday Dr. John Raymond, head of the Medical College of Wisconsin offered a hopeful timeline.
"We’re hoping they can all have a vaccine provided to them by late March or even earlier than that," said Dr. Raymond.
Health officials anticipate more national guidance on vaccines and essential workers within the next two weeks.