Exclusive interview: DHS secretary speaks with News 8 Now on COVID-19 vaccine priority

Interim DHS secretary Karen Timberlake answers questions about vaccine rollout and La Crosse as vaccination hub

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse continues to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses but questions remain about the efficiency of vaccinations in Wisconsin. Last week the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced new vaccination sites. La Crosse is one of those locations.

News 8 Now’s Amy DuPont spoke with DHS interim Secretary Karen Timberlake last week. We continue this exclusive conversation with how the health department deals with vaccine priorities and what makes La Crosse a prime location for vaccination rollout.

Amy DuPont – We’re hearing from people 65 and older who were the 1A and they still haven’t gotten their shot. How do you manage that?

Karen Timberlake – “We are about 58% almost 60% to reaching every person 65 and older in our state with the first dose of vaccine. And at the same time, we are beginning to hear from some vaccinators in some parts of the state that they are just about done with 65 and older. The last thing we want is for the vaccine to be sitting on shelves.

“What we have done throughout the pandemic and what we are going to continue to do when we reach about 50% coverage of the group that’s currently eligible, that’s when we open to the next group.

“By continuing to stager eligibility, we are going to make sure we keep getting shots in arms and keep getting people vaccinated as fast as we can, while at the same time asking our vaccinators to continue to prioritize the current groups; in particular 65 and older.”

Amy DuPont – La Crosse is obviously one of the bigger areas on the western side of the state but we’re a bit surprised that we’re getting this many doses here when you look at Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, communities that are larger. Why La Crosse?

Karen Timberlake – “In large part because you are that regional hub (on the west side of the state). When we think about positioning these higher capacity vaccination sites around the state, we want to make sure that we got the opportunity in what are the population centers in our state or in a place where people are used to coming for services and that really characterizes La Crosse.”