This week, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) vaccine subcommittee met twice to discuss the groups covered in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination (Phase 1B). Similar to the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Wisconsin’s SDMAC provides recommendations to the Department of Health Services (DHS) for vaccine prioritization and distribution.
Currently, Wisconsin is in the first phase of vaccine distribution (Phase 1A) which is limited to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. The state has not completed vaccinating all individuals included in Phase 1A and has released a dashboard of the status of Phase 1A. This week, DHS announced their plans to move forward with law enforcement and fire fighters before the Phase 1B recommendations are finalized.
In December, the federal ACIP published recommendations regarding who should qualify for the second vaccination phase (Phase 1B). Building on the ACIP’s recommendations, the federal government recommended state broaden the population able to receive the vaccine to individuals 65 and older.
In the meantime, the SDMAC vaccine subcommittee is taking public comment on draft recommendations. The Wisconsin Phase 1B distribution would include the following groups: individuals 70 and older, those living and working in congregate living, mink husbandry workers, public-facing essential workers, including first responders, non-frontline healthcare personnel and educators. Educators include those working in daycare, preschool, K-12, and higher education. The subcommittee plans to have additional discussion regarding the definition of “non-frontline healthcare personnel” after they review the public comment. Public comments are due January 18, 2021.
Once the vaccine subcommittee approves the Phase 1B recommendations, the full SDMAC will review and approve and submit the recommendations to DHS. DHS can accept the recommendations or modify if desired. The SDMAC vaccine distribution subcommittee has already begun to discuss the population and groups that will be included in the third phase, Phase 1C.
On January 14, the Assembly Committee on Health held an informational hearing to discuss the state’s vaccine distribution process. Testifying before the committee, DHS Assistant Deputy Secretary Lisa Olson emphasized the state’s need for additional vaccine doses from the federal government and said that the federal government’s week-by-week distribution model has limited the department’s ability to plan and coordinate with vaccine partners. She said that about one third of the state’s allocated vaccine doses have been given to Wisconsinites, while the rest have been or are in the process of being distributed to the state’s 1,200 vaccine partners.
The day before the hearing, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) sent a letter to Governor Tony Evers asking for a comprehensive vaccine plan and calling the administration’s current plan “inadequate.” Gov. Evers responded in a letter that the state can’t expand the list of eligible vaccine recipients until the state receives more doses from the federal government. He also noted that the federal government requires states to reserve some vaccine doses for a specific program for long-term care residents and staff.