(The Center Square) – As many as 1.6 million people in Wisconsin could be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine under the state’s newest vaccine plan. But being eligible doesn’t guarantee a shot.
The Department of Health Services’ vaccine subcommittee has agreed to an expansive list of people who will be eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1b. The list includes people over 65, teachers, prisoners and inmates, grocery store workers, mink farmers, bus drivers, and many more. DHS estimates one in three people in Wisconsin would be included in Phase 1b.
Doctors and government watchdogs say that’s a mistake.
Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute, said Wisconsin has been slow to get the coronavirus vaccine to people in the state. Adding over a million-and-a-half people to the list isn’t going to change that.
“According to DHS’ own statistics, [Wisconsin] has been given almost 778,000 vaccines to distribute from the federal government and they have administered 248,000 vaccine shots total to date,” Healy said Thursday. “Just 45,638 Wisconsinites have been fully vaccinated so far.”
Healy blames Gov. Tony Evers for waiting on a vaccine plan, then trying to micromanage vaccine distribution.
“We have known that the COVID-19 vaccine was coming to Wisconsin for weeks and yet, here we are in mid-January, with bureaucrats debating who should receive the vaccine,” Healy said. “And while the bureaucrats spend countless hours debating who should be eligible, they have not put in the time to develop the plan on how they will deliver the vaccine shots to real people.”
Wisconsin is ranked at the bottom of Midwestern states when it comes to vaccine distribution. That will likely only get worse if Phase 1b includes a third of the state’s population.
Vaccine committee co-chair Dr. Jonathan Temte with the UW-Madison School of Medicine on Wednesday said Wisconsin doesn’t have the doses to vaccine such a large Phase 1b group.
"It's going to be a very, very, very long time for this target to be hit," Temete said.
Healy said instead of trying to satisfy groups for political purposes, Evers and his administration should focus on the people who are most at risk from the virus.
“We need to focus on our most vulnerable populations,” Healy told The Center Square. “We know from the data that COVID-19 is a problem for those with a serious pre-existing condition and the elderly. That is exactly who should be receiving the vaccine first. Not prisoners. Not non-critical workers. It makes no sense that the Evers administration would consider a state prisoner to be the same priority as a 65-year-old person. To all of us with elderly family who we have not seen in months out of precaution, it is infuriating.”