Public Health Madison & Dane County representative Doug Voegeli gave an update last week on the vaccine rollout taking place throughout the county, acknowledging that the process has been more gradual than his agency originally anticipated.
“To be quite honest, it’s painstakingly slow. And I say that because of the supply issues that we’re having in the system,” said Voegeli, pandemic operations section chief at PHMDC. “We just don’t get enough vaccine doses to be able to handle all the people that are signing up.”
Voegeli spoke at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s most recent Lunch(UP)date, a program in which president Zach Brandon interviews local leaders about their ongoing efforts.
The Jan. 21 discussion focused on rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Dane County.
Voegeli reported that 41,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been administered as of that afternoon. He noted that the vaccine was a two-dose series, and that the number of doses administered should not be construed as the number of residents that are fully vaccinated.
Voegeli said the biggest challenge in rolling out the vaccine so far has been a lack of supply. The public-health official added Dane County was not the only county facing that challenge.
“The whole state of Wisconsin is behind,” Voegeli said. “I don’t know if that’s just the doses that are being allocated to the state, and it’s not near enough, or if it is issues with the supply chain. But I guess I would’ve hoped that we were further along.”
Wisconsin DHS recently developed a system for determining how the vaccine would be distributed.
In it, the department has identified populations eligible for a vaccine in the first two phases of distribution. Currently eligible populations – those in Phase 1A – include frontline healthcare workers, residents in nursing and long-term care facilities, and police and fire personnel.
PHMDC previously estimated that 40,000 residents fell within a Phase 1A priority population, meaning all members of the first tier should have received their initial dose by this point.
Vaccine recipients have been asked to wait 21 days before going in for their second dose.
DHS announced that adults 65 and older would be eligible for their initial dose of the vaccine starting Jan. 25. Voegeli noted that there was a difference between eligibility and availability, however.
“We don’t have the accompanying supply to meet that demand,” Voegeli said. “So while we have more people that are eligible, we’re still dependent on that vaccine supply that’s coming in. And until that supply increases…that just adds more people into the whole mix.”
The public-health official said improvements to the supply chain are expected in the near future, due to a new White House administration taking office on Jan. 20.
“What we’ve heard since then is that our supply will remain stable for the next for weeks and, after that, hopefully it will increase significantly,” Voegeli said. “I’m very cautiously optimistic that things are going to look a lot different in 3-4 months and that we will start to open up again.”
Information regarding vaccine eligibility can be found at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-about.htm.