Wisconsin health officials say the state has reached a pivotal moment in the pandemic as Pfizer plans to send its first shipment of vaccine doses to the state. Emergency federal approval for the Pfizer vaccine could come as soon as the end of this week.
The state’s health department revealed Monday that it is expecting nearly 50,000 doses from Pfizer in the next couple of weeks.
There are 300,000 people who live in long-term care facilities in Wisconsin. They are paired with healthcare workers at the top of the state’s vaccine priority list. State health leaders expect some of the first doses to be given to these groups before the end of December.
“When you add an outbreak in a facility to folks who are already medically compromised, as we’ve seen, has been devastating,” said Wisconsin Health Care Association President Rick Abrams.
Abrams represents those who live and work in long-term care. Abrams said the federal government has contracted CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to bring doses of the vaccine right to the residents on site where the live. The state’s health department believes that can be done before winter turns to spring.
“I think the 2 to 3 month time frame, I think that is very very reasonable,” Abrams said. “It may be overly optimistic.”
Wisconsin is already slated to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines upon U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Both vaccines require a second dose 3 to 4 weeks later. The major difference between the two vaccines is Pfizer’s needs to be stored at a very cold temperature.
“We are asking for patience and this is going to take time and it’s going to be a process moving it forward,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.
Willems Van Dijk said the next in line includes other essential workers such as first responders, followed by those who are age 65 and older along with people who have underlying illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Willems Van Dijk said everyone else considered ‘low risk’ will likely have to wait until next summer to get the vaccine which comes with minor side effects.
“Things like headache, muscle aches, pain at the injection site, fatigue so those are signs and symptoms of the body producing antibody to protect yourself,” she said.
The federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. Insurance companies are required to cover the expense of administering the doses. Willems Van Dijk said there should not be any out-of-pocket expenses involved.