Vaccine Availability Increases

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

MADISON–The state is working to provide greater access to COVID-19 vaccinations, including working to form pop-up clinics and worksite clinics around the state. State run clinics are also offering walk-in service. In addition, Pfizer is expected to authorize vaccines for 12 to 15 year-olds by early next week.

Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Diseases told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday that the measures will help push the number of vaccinated individuals higher. The state currently has 43 percent of eligible residents vaccinated, which has slowed demand a bit.

Willems Van Dijk began the conference by first delivering the bad news. “I have some grim news, today we have reached 600,000 cases in the state.” She went on to say 6,850 had died from the virus in Wisconsin.

She said she knows the large numbers seem unreal or intangible but for those affected by the virus they are very real and very tangible.

Willems Van Dijk continued by saying she knows dealing with the Coronavirus has been a long haul and led to a change in lifestyle. She assured the group that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is doing all it can to make the vaccines more available.

After stating that the state clinics were now walk-in, she encouraged people to go to vaccinefinder.org if they are in need of a vaccine.

A second measure in increasing availability is a vaccinator matching program that will connect employers and community based organizations directly with vaccinators. This will help pave the way for pop up and workplace vaccine sites.

With a decline in those requesting vaccines, Willems Van Dijk said the multi-dose vials have become a challenge, because they don’t always get used. She added that the fragility of the vaccine has played a part in the loss of doses. And even though she said the state has gotten good at storage, they need to be better at distributing.

Some clinics in the state have been letting others know when they have an open vial that must be used and sharing them, so they don’t go to waste. Willems Van Dijk encouraged vaccinators to adopt this practice to reduce waste. About 1,000-2,000 doses are lost each week in the state. 

She addressed the goals Dr. Anthony Fauci and Pres. Joe Biden wanted to reach to gain herd immunity, which were given at a press conference earlier in the day. Fauci hopes to reach 80 percent vaccinated by July 4 and Biden is hoping for 70 percent. Willems but reminded that there is no magic number for herd immunity, which also considers natural infection, a factor that is hard to determine. This is why Fauci, and other healthcare professionals are working toward high vaccination numbers.

“We don’t know what THE number is that will cause the stalling out of the infection,” she said.

It was also announced on Tuesday morning that vaccine trial data for 12-15 year-olds who had received the vaccine was in its final review. The trials were conducted with the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to be available to that age group by early next week.

Willems Van Dijk said clinics are ready to start vaccinating 12-15 year-olds. She said that DHS would likely work with schools to get teens vaccinated as they did with 16-18 year-olds. 

A reporter asked about news stories claiming that the vaccine disrupts women’s menstrual cycles.  Some women say they have had longer than normal periods or none at all after getting vaccinated. Westergaard said that at this point the reports are “antidotal,” adding, “It’s common that pattens can change.” 

The pair were asked about when we could stop wearing masks. 

“It’s hard to say a number, my gut says 50 percent (vaccination) is low,” said Willems Van Dijk.

“The level of transmission must go down,” added Westergaard. “We probably don’t want to do away with masks altogether.”

 

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