As the State of Wisconsin continues to manage the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines it receives from the federal government, the Wisconsin Medical Society’s (Society) COVID-19 Task Force recently weighed in on a state advisory committee’s preliminary recommendations on which cohorts should be included in the next round of vaccinations. While the original proposal from the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) Vaccine Distribution Subcommittee included seniors age 70 and older in “group 1b,” the task force suggested that the state instead mimic federal guidance that sets the eligibility age at 65. The task force supported other subcommittee recommendations, as they were aimed at protecting the most vulnerable populations and their communities.
When the task force discussed the subcommittee’s recommendations at its meeting on January 14, it predicted how debates over who should be in the next priority group would likely become acrimonious. Those predictions came true just days later, with various groups ranging from teachers to grocers to the manufacturing sector all weighing in with their desires to be included in group 1b. To that end, the task force recommended that rather than the subcommittee focusing on which groups merit inclusion in future vaccination tiers, efforts might be better spent pivoting to improving vaccine distribution logistics so that the state can ensure future COVID-19 vaccine doses are efficiently administered to as many people as possible while maintaining proper safety and record-keeping protocols. The Society task force’s letter to the subcommittee can be found here. After receiving public comments, the SDMAC subcommittee updated its recommendations, including the removal of the age 70+ recommendation.
The SDMAC met earlier this morning (January 20) and voted unanimously to pass along to the state an amended version of that most recent document, which prioritizes those living in substitute care living facilities and congregate living settings and public-facing essential workers (with a nod to prioritizing teachers, but also including those working in public transit, food chain, mink husbandry industries and non-frontline health care personnel). The state’s Department of Health Services will review the recommendations and announce who will be included in group 1b next week.
The Society continues to engage with local public health departments about group 1a vaccination availability and is updating the county-by-county information on the Society’s COVID-19 web page.
Contact Society Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.
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