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Milwaukee VA administers first COVID-19 vaccine doses

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 19:12:29-05

MILWAUKEE — COVID-19 vaccines are making their way through Wisconsin, with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center administering their first doses on Wednesday.

A doctor, a nurse, and a housekeeper working in high-risk areas were among the first.

"I’m happy to be the first to promote it, that’s why I’m here today. I think that the sooner we all have the opportunity to get this vaccine the sooner we can get back to normal," said Katherine Matz, a clinical nurse specialist who has worked with COVID-19 patients.

After some paperwork and discussion about Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Katherine became the first staff member here to get vaccinated.

The Milwaukee VA got its first shipment of nearly 3,000 doses on Tuesday. The Chief of Pharmacy Dr. Kim Bell got the call as the shipment arrived. Doses will go to staff in high-risk areas and veterans in long-term care first.

"We’re finally able to start administering the vaccine that we’ve all been talking about for so long, which will hopefully get us out of what we’ve been dealing with for the past nine or 10 months," said Bell.

The state's allocation of Pfizer's vaccine is separate from the VA’s.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services expected the last of their distribution hubs to receive shipments on Wednesday. The state's first batch amounts to nearly 50,000 doses.

By Wednesday progress updates from providers were mixed. UW Health expected to have about 250 employees vaccinated by the end of the day. Ascension announced they would administer their first vaccines on Thursday. Froedtert Hospital did not have an update as of midday.

However, how much vaccine Wisconsin gets in the next round is unknown. Health Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm says there is a need for more visibility from the federal government on distribution.

"We certainly hope to receive that information soon. That's critical to our ability to plan to work with our partners to allocate that, to push it out, and make sure that it is safely and efficiently used," said Palm.

Meanwhile, Katherine looks forward to what these vaccines mean for the future.

"It means that soon we will be able to invite veterans' families in to see them when they’re going through some of the most horrible times in their life," said Katherine, "The COVID pandemic has not allowed us to invite family and to say I love you. We miss that. We miss having the family there to support their loved ones."

The Milwaukee VA Medical Center vaccinated five workers on Wednesday. Efforts will ramp up in the coming days.

State health officials are keeping an eye on Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, which could get emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration this week. The state anticipates it will receive about 100,000 doses from Moderna.

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