Wis. doctors continue preliminary discussions about COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Posted at 11:14 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 14:37:53-05

MILWAUKEE — With promising momentum in the race for a vaccine, doctors with Wisconsin's Department of Health Services met Tuesday morning to, once again, talk about the distribution of vaccines.

Last week, doctors met to determine how vaccine distribution should be prioritized among the first to receive early doses. Now, the conversation has shifted to determine how to get vaccines to those recipients.

Healthcare workers will likely receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes available. The doctors on the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee's Vaccine Subcommittee have a goal of ensuring the distribution of vaccines is both fair and ethical.

The doctors are forming preliminary protocols to eventually give out to healthcare systems who will likely eventually be distributing the COVID-19 vaccines.

"Give the guidelines, and we're not going to be able to operationalize each vaccinators program, but we can give principles by which we expect them to live," said Dr. Rajiv Naik, a subcommittee member.

The ongoing preliminary discussions include conversations about how to get vaccines out to healthcare workers who are working in both urban and rural settings. In some cases, doctors worry that more rural areas or areas with smaller healthcare organizations, may not have the same access to space or equipment, such as special freezers to store vaccines.

"Urban, large medical centers are going to be most able to assemble a large number of patients, have that 78-degree freezer and so on, and all of a sudden you've introduced amount of inequity in terms of the rest of our state, rural areas and so on," said Dr. Jon Temte, a subcommittee member.

The group considered numerous options to try and combat any potential inequities that may arise during the distribution process.

For example, they considered implementing a lottery system to distribute early doses of the vaccine among healthcare workers.

In addition to talks about distribution, making sure that limited, early doses of the vaccine don't go to waste was top of mind Tuesday, too. Some doctors fear that some people may be hesitant to be among the first to receive the vaccines.

"The worst-case scenario is that we have a random allocation, somebody has 975 people and then 400 people say 'we don’t want it,' and then this very scarce, very precious resource is allocated and just sitting in a freezer and that doesn't do anybody any good," said Ann Lewandowski, Subcommittee Co-Chair.

The subcommittee's discussions are not over. They'll meet again on Friday to continue forming the distribution guidance as America waits for a COVID-19 vaccine to become readily available.

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