As COVID-19 cases approach 7,000 in Jefferson County, local health officials announced Wednesday that healthcare personnel not affiliated with a hospital will be the next to receive the vaccine.
Emergency medical responders and dental hygienists all are part of the next wave to get the vaccine in the county as efforts to ramp up shots continues to build.
While hospitals like Fort HealthCare have begun vaccinating staff, the Jefferson County Health Department will provide vaccines to this next wave of recipients.
“There are no wait lists being formed for vaccines in future tiers at this time,” said Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department. “The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is developing a registration system for these future groups and for the public.”
Gov. Tony Evers defended the state's rollout of the vaccine on Tuesday, amid criticism the process has been too slow.
As of Monday, 266,675 doses of vaccine had been shipped to Wisconsin and 85,609 had been administered. Wisconsin ranks 10th lowest out of 12 states in the Midwest in getting a first dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
In Jefferson County, the rollout of vaccine has been ramping up. At Fort HealthCare, 40% of the workforce has gotten the vaccine this week.
“We should be complete with our employee process in the next one to two weeks,” said Nicole Leibman, marketing manager for the hospital. “The process has gone very smoothly. Because of the nature of this vaccine it is important that people are scheduled in advance and nobody has missed their allotted spot.”
She said 75 percent of Fort HealthCare employees have signed up for the vaccine that is not mandated, but recommended.
Liebman said Fort HealthCare is keeping its website updated with the latest vaccine information at FortHealthCare.com/covid. The goal is to let people in the next phase of shots know when and where that will happen.
The county health department is following the tiered vaccinations defined by the state and anyone in Tier 1A now can sign up for the vaccine.
Scott said health department officials are asking any Jefferson County organization which employs individuals that meet the requirements for this tier and are not yet matched with a place to receive the vaccine to submit their information to the county at email@example.com.
All people who are eligible will be given an appointment.
The county and local hospitals have been receiving calls from residents wanting to know when they can sign up for the vaccine.
“Our staff is getting calls,” Scott said in December. “There is no vaccine list for people to get on to sign up for the vaccine. Especially if they are the general public. No one is putting together a list.”
Currently, frontline workers are the first to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that got approval this month for emergency use.
The Pfizer vaccine requires extremely cold storage, minus-94 degrees. So smaller hospitals might not have the storage facilities for that. At Fort HealthCare, staff have gotten the Moderna vaccine that has less storage requirements.
One of the biggest challenges the county faces, like any county, is getting people to want to take a new vaccine with new technology. But so far, that has not been a big issue.
“Initially we were a little more apprehensive,” Samroz Jakvani, epidemiologist with the Jefferson County Health Department, said recently.
But people have showed a willingness to get the vaccine when their time comes, he said.
“Our biggest challenge is to have people adhere to the public health measures until we can relax them," Jakvani said. "We have to have people stay patient.”
Scott said people currently eligible for the shot excludes anyone who can telework.
“Though many clinics and organizations would like to get back to working in-person, individuals like hospital workers, emergency workers, etc., do not have the ability to work from home and are being prioritized,” she said.
The vaccine, she said, eventually will be made available to anyone who wants it.
Those included in this latest round of vaccines also includes chiropractors, personal care assistants, home health workers, hospice workers, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians. Also, transportation workers in healthcare settings. The county has a full list on its website.
As of Wednesday, 494,747 Wisconsin residents have tested positive for the virus and 5,309 have died from COVID-19, the state Department of Health Services reported.
In Jefferson County, 6,833 people have tested positive for the virus since March.