MADISON — Wisconsin health officials are giving us a better idea about how the state will distribute COVID-19 vaccines, as companies like Pfizer and Moderna move closer to having a finished, effective dose.
It will not be an easy effort by any means, explained Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk at a press conference Tuesday. "This is a massive vaccination effort and we're going to need all hands on deck in order to get as many people in Wisconsin immunized as who want to be immunized," she said.
Wisconsin Immunization Program director Stephanie Schauer said federal partners tell them to expect a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2020, though they admitted the number of doses at first will be limited.
Schauer explained that in that initial stage of distributing the vaccine, health care providers will be the priority. From there, distribution will widen to essential workers and people who are at "high risk" of getting sick from the virus, and then eventually - months away - doses will be distributed to anyone who wants one.
Watch Tuesday's media briefing below:
"It will take several months before vaccine supply will meet the public's demand," Schauer said. She added that even with the vaccine released to the public, essential COVID-19 safety measures like social distancing, mask-wearing and the washing of hands will need to continue. She also urged people to get a flu vaccine.
"The flu shot doesn't protect you against COVID-19, but by protecting you from Influenza, it can prevent you from needing care for the flu and help alleviate the strain on our health care system," Schauer said.
Willems Van Dijk released new details about the amount of money it will cost to distribute the vaccine. She said during Tuesday's briefing that Wisconsin has received $3.1 million to be used to ship and store the doses. But she adds that the CDC has estimated it would take $5.5 to $6 billion to effectively distribute the vaccine across the country, split across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories.
"The state of Wisconsin will need more than $3.1 million to get millions of doses of this vaccine into the arms of everyone in the state who needs it," according to Willems Van Dijk.
Willems Van Dijk also addressed the desire voiced by some to not use a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We know certainly that one concern many people have is, will this vaccine be safe? I think sometimes when something is developed quickly, people wonder about how much attention was paid to safety. One of the things that I think is very important for people to understand is that the FDA and their scientists will look at all of the data themselves. They will not count on the analysis from the pharmaceutical companies," she said.
Willems Van Dijk continued the regulator's efforts will include confirming possible side effects of the vaccines and of course, how effective the doses are against the virus.
"In addition, as with any medication, once it goes from trial into broad general dissemination, we'll continue to monitor for safety. And if there are any safety concerns, those will be addressed immediately upon their identification," according to to Willems Van Dijk.
She also addressed what we may not figure out until the doses are released to the general population.
"I think the other thing is people are worried about the unknown. This is a new vaccine. And if you don't know and so I heard Dr. Anthony Fauci speak to this earlier today, saying that as people get the vaccine and, assuming it is safe and people are experiencing relatively few side effects and are reaping the benefits of the protective effects of the vaccine, we think support for the vaccine will grow over time. And so that's another important factor. Some people are the first ones to raise their hands and let me be first in line. And other people with any kind of change want to wait and see and come in the second or third wave in terms of public education and what we're doing," according to Willems Van Dijk.