Covid-19 vaccine trickles into Ozaukee County

First responders get first doses, officials say general population may have to wait until late spring, early summer

MIKE BROWN, A CLINICAL PHARMACIST at Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy, was one of the healthcare professionals who administered the Moderna vaccine to local first responders last week at the Grafton Fire Department. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Administration of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ozaukee County began last week as first responders gathered at the Grafton Fire Department Thursday, Jan. 7, to get their shots.

As of earlier this week, all emergency medical technicians, paramedics and other first responders in the county had received the first of two innoculations, Washington Ozaukee Public Health Director Kirsten Johnson said, while other frontline health care workers also had begun being vaccinated.

Even though the vaccine has begun to reach the county, officials say it likely will be late spring or early summer before it reaches the general population.

The work of vaccinating is being shared by local hospitals, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies and the county health department.

The vaccinations performed last week in Grafton, for instance, were done by a combination of personnel from Aurora Medical Center, Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy and the county health department. 

First responders and those healthcare workers are part of the so-called “1a group,” deemed to be the highest priority for the vaccination. The group also includes all firefighters, police, hospital workers, and those in dental offices, unaffiliated health offices, group homes and chiropractic and behavioral health offices.

Johnson said she expects the 1a group in Ozaukee County to be completely innoculated within about eight weeks. Vaccinations in the second tier, or 1b, group likely will begin before all those in 1a receive their second shot.

The 1a group also includes school nurses, but teachers and other school staff are included in the 1b group, Johnson said.

Her office has already reached out to schools to get the number of how many people there want vaccinations.

“Teachers and school staff are a very high priority for us so we will continue to coordinate with school districts,” she said. 

The 1b group also includes those 70 and older and a yet-to-be-defined “essential workers” group. It has also been reported the 1b group will likely include incarcerated people and corrections workers.

Some states also have lowered the age limit to 65, Johnson said.

“That guidance (from the state on whether to lower the age limit) has yet to come. That is still being fleshed out,” as is where those people will go to get vaccines, although she said it most likely will be through their primary doctors.

Vaccine delivery from the state has been problematic, Johnson said, as she’s not sure how many doses will be delivered week to week.

“We have been fortunate. Last week we ordered 340 and we got 340,” Johnson said. “This week we ordered 600 and got 500.”

She said her department will continue to order 600 doses a week.

That’s in addition to doses received by hospitals and pharmacies.

County-by-county vaccine data is not readily available through the state Department of Health Services.

On its website, DHS reported that, as of Tuesday, 163,371 doses had been administered statewide, 373,100 doses had been shipped and 607,650 had been “allocated,” which includes doses shipped by the federal government directly to vaccination locations, bypassing the state.

“We have not had any problems ordering the vaccine; we just don’t know how much we’re going to get, which makes it hard to plan,” Johnson said.

“I think the biggest challenge we have,” Johnson said, “is not knowing the definition of ‘essential workers,’” which means her department doesn’t know how many people are in the 1b group. Not knowing that means she doesn’t know when the general public will be able to get vaccinated.

“It’s going to depend on how big the 1b group is and how long it takes us to get through that group,” she said.

Despite the questions, “I think overall we’re in a good place with our planning and actually putting the vaccine into arms,” she said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. We’re going to vaccinate everyone who wants it.”

DHS officials said this week it will likely be late spring or early summer before vaccines are available to the general public.

Gov. Tony Evers this week blamed the federal government for the apparently slow rollout of the vaccine, saying the state is limited by the supply they receive from the federal government and on Monday issued a press release calling for the feds to increase the state’s weekly allocation.

On the Covid-19 testing front, Johnson said the testing facility during the week at the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds in Cedarburg continues to be busy.

But testing at the county Transit Center in Port Washington has been shut down due to low turnout, she said, noting that only 55 people showed up on Saturday over a six-hour period.

The fairgrounds test site, operated by a private company, is open  8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The county health department also is offering tests for school-age children and their parents who have been exposed to the virus or who have symptoms.

Testing is done at the department’s office at the county Administration Center in downtown Port Washington.

An appointment is required and can be made by calling 284-8170. 

On Tuesday, there were 411 active  Covid-19 cases in the county, up from 369 on Jan. 5, but down from a high of 1,300 on Nov. 20, according to the county health department’s website.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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