State’s COVID-19 vaccination plan shows which Wisconsinites would get doses first

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– While COVID-19 vaccine trials are still underway, Wisconsin officials are already planning for who would get it first once it’s ready. The plan from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services released this week also lays out how it would be distributed.

There are a number of COVID-19 vaccines in a phase 3 clinical trial. That’s the final test before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could authorize or approve a vaccine for use.

“It takes time because it needs to meet efficiency standards and safety standards,” said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator for the trial and an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

UW Health will resume an AstraZeneca trial next week, after a participant in the United Kingdom became ill. The FDA and an independent safety review board have completed their review, according to a press release.

“That took time, but their conclusion is that it’s a safe trial to continue,” Hartman said.

Wisconsin’s plan to roll out a safe and effective vaccine is contingent on how many of these vaccines are approved at one time, production, availability and current disease prevalence or spread. An executive summary of the plan released on Oct. 26 said pending FDA authorization or licensing, limited doses may be available in late 2020. The supply is expected to increase substantially through 2021.

“There are lots of variables about from the point of approval to the point it lands in the state of Wisconsin,” said Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, during a recent press briefing.

Who would get the vaccine first would rely on input from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) as well as from Wisconsin’s State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC).

This plan says if there are only limited doses available, phase one populations would include:

  • Healthcare personnel exposed to or treating people with COVID-19
  • People living in long-term care or assisted living facilities and people 65 years of age and older
  • Other essential workers, based upon definitions recommended by ACIP and SDMAC

“As a scarce resource, we will need to prioritize its use in our populations in Wisconsin,” Palm said.

The federal government is bearing the cost so any vaccine, supplies or equipment would be free for providers and patients. At this point, it would not be mandated but highly recommended to stop the virus.

“And allow us to get back to something that looks like a more normal life,” Palm said.

But even those who are prioritized will have to wait, likely until early 2021. In the meantime, state health officials will continue to plan for distribution to those who need it.

“It is certainly our goal to be ready when those first few vials arrive here,” Palm said.

The plan will be implemented in partnership with the state’s 97 local health departments and tribal jurisdictions, along with local providers and organizations. The state is determining its ability to contract for mass vaccination capacity to supplement local resources.

The La Crosse Health department said in a statement it has long had plans in place for providing vaccines to large populations as part of its emergency preparedness program, including distribution and storage.

“These plans will be updated as we continue to learn more from the WI Department of Health Services. Our COVID-19 vaccination plans will be based off guidelines they provide and will be in conjunction with health care and community partners,” said a health department spokesperson, in a statement.

The full COVID-19 vaccination plan can be found here.