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DHS to announce next week who’s in the next eligible group for vaccination

MADISON (WKOW) -- State health officials announced Thursday they expect to determine next week which groups of people will join the ranks of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin.

This week, teachers, grocery store employees, and transit workers were able to start getting shots, joining all adults 65 and older and first responders among the people currently eliglble.

The CDC recommendations include in Phase 1C people between the ages of 16 and 64 who have pre-existing medical conditions. A number of viewers for News 9 affiliate 27 News have asked when those individuals who get to join the line of people waiting for the vaccine.

"There are plenty of people who are 30 years old, have asthma, who have diabetes, who are put in the position where they do have to go out there and work," said Jim Brausen of Janesville.

Brausen was not asking for himself but other individuals were considered for their own health and that of their loved ones.

"I live with my 71-year-old mom who is a stroke and cancer survivor," said Alison Blythe, also of Janesville. "I have COPD, I have high blood pressure, I have high cholesterol."

Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Thursday the challenge was determining which pre-existing conditions should move someone toward the front of the line.

"Part of the decision-making is thinking about which pre-existing conditions, and really using the CDC's research, to look at where the strongest evidence is about which conditions contribute to COVID-19," Van Dijk said.

Van Dijk noted that while doctors know a lot more about the virus than they did a year ago, there's still relatively little research on which pre-existing conditions make someone particularly susceptible for a severe COVID-19 infection.

"We're still pretty much in our infancy around understanding that," Van Dijk said.

The other challenge - the largest for the entire rollout at the moment - is supply. Van Dijk said DHS will have to balance ensuring the right people become eligible relative to the amount of doses available.

"It's complex to try and hit the notes just right to include people who we know are at risk," Van Dijk said. "Do we put people who might be at risk? And how do we do this in a way that doesn't overwhelm the vaccinating system?"

Van Dijk said DHS expected to announce within the next two weeks when people in the next group can expect to start signing up for vaccination appointments.

Racial disparity remedy; The administration of vaccines continues to disproportionately benefit White people.

According to the DHS vaccine dashboard, 16 percent of the state's Caucasian residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As of Thursday, only 4.8 percent of Hispanic residents and 5.4 percent of Black residents received their first doses. Overall, 16.9 percent of Wisconsin's population has gotten its first shot.

Van Dijk said DHS was in the process of calculating which of the state's vaccinators were vaccinating the most people of color.

"We'll be looking at how we can look at our allocation formula to assure those providers who have been vaccinating a higher percentage of people of color will receive a boost in their vaccine supply," Van Dijk said.

Another obstacle in ensuring equity in the state's rollout has been skepticism among some people of color about whether the vaccine is safe.

DHS officials have said they're in the process of working with community-based organizations to answer questions people have about the vaccine and to develop mobile vaccination programs that bring clinics to people for whom transportation is traditionally a barrier.

WKOW

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