Wisconsin’s nursing facilities to receive COVID-19 vaccine by end of December

FILE - This March 16, 2020 file photo shows vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes used...
FILE - This March 16, 2020 file photo shows vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Seattle.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 10:56 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As vaccine shipments continue to arrive in Wisconsin, the state health department says the first doses will be sent to skilled nursing and long-term care facilities by the end of the month.

Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services activated the National Pharmacy Program. This is a partnership between the CDC and national pharmacy chains, including Walgreens and CVS.

“We take our vaccine that is allocated to Wisconsin and re-allocate it to this program to provide the vaccine to the pharmacy chains,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS Deputy Secretary.

The pharmacies will then go into facilities to vaccinate both residents and staff that opted to receive the COVID vaccine. This process is expect to begin in two weeks.

Right now, timing is critical. This comes as coronavirus cases and death at Wisconsin nursing homes reach record highs. “Wisconsin started out pretty good but we’re not there anymore. We’re in really bad shape,” said Helen Marks Dicks, Advocacy Director for AARP Wisconsin.

Since June, AARP has been tracking the impact the pandemic is having on nursing homes.

According to the latest data from AARP, the level of deaths in Wisconsin nursing homes over the last 30 days is three times what it was the month before.

As vaccine shipments arrive in the state, there’s hope moving forward.

“I think putting nursing homes on the high priority list to receive a vaccine is very important because it’s kind of a domino effect. If we can get the infection rate under control in nursing homes, then they wouldn’t be going to hospitals and that would free up space,” said Dicks.

The pharmacy vaccine program is a big step and without it, nursing homes would have to wait much longer to be vaccinated.

DHS says people hoping to see their loved once in these facilities will however have to wait.

The department is monitoring community spread of the virus and infection rates in specific areas will determine when in-person visits at facilities can resume.

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