Madison – With news of the variant strain of COVID-19 arriving in Wisconsin, State Senator Alberta Darling is again asking for an efficient and transparent vaccine plan from Governor Tony Evers’ administration.
Last week, Senator Darling sent a letter to Governor Evers’ administration demanding answers to questions about their vaccine plan. Unfortunately, the answers provided by his administration lacked details, while some of the questions were unanswered altogether. Senator Darling says her constituents deserve answers.
“It is heartbreaking to speak to elderly and vulnerable constituents and not be able to tell them when they can expect to receive this lifesaving vaccine,” Darling said, “Last night, Governor Evers delivered his state of the state and refused to given Wisconsinites any hope on when they will be vaccinated. I will keep asking until he takes this seriously.”
On Wednesday, Senator Darling sent the following questions to Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm:
Vaccination Eligibility & Decision Making
- The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) advises DHS on ethics and provides guidance for the vaccination rollout. After their guidance documents have been submitted, DHS makes the final decisions. Where can Wisconsinites look to see the final decisions made by DHS? Are these made publicly available? How is the final decision communicated to the vaccinators?
- Long term care vaccination is being done in conjunction with the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program. According to reports by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin is one of the last states in the country to begin the vaccination process for those in our assisted living facilities.
- Why is Wisconsin lagging behind other states in administering the vaccine to our assisted living facilities?
- In response to interview questions, DHS staff has typically stated that Wisconsin has been slow to administer vaccines to those in long term care facilities due to a vaccine reserve needed to begin the federal program.
- Given the high mortality and hospitalization rate for this group, why didn’t the state opt to reserve more vaccines for this population upfront?
- Was there any consideration given to prioritizing reserving vaccines for this group over administering the vaccine to healthcare workers who are working remotely?
- What is DHS’s strategy for prioritizing those inside phases 1b (once officially determined)?
- Specifically, will everyone in the group be immediately eligible, or will DHS strategize to vaccinate certain population groups inside the 1b determination first?
Vaccination Distribution & the Hubs
- How is DHS determining the quantities for distribution at individual locations?
- In a meeting of the SDMAC subcommittee, a committee member stated that some health care organizations were essentially holding the vaccines for their own and not vaccinating those outsides of their network. Is this accurate? How does DHS ensure vaccinating entities are distributing their vaccines to all individuals inside each phase, rather than prioritizing their own interests?
- How is DHS communicating information to the hubs, hospitals, providers, first responders, & nursing homes relating to the timing of their vaccinations?
- In the most recent communication from your office, it’s stated that DHS remains in contact through weekly webinars, email updates, and external communications. While this information is appreciated, it fails to answer how individual locations can learn when they are to expect a vaccine. How does DHS contact an individual provider to let them know they will be receiving part of the vaccine supply in the following week’s shipment?
- Is there a point of contact within the Department for providers to contact with questions about the timing of their vaccine?
- How many potential vaccinators in WI have pending applications?
Ordering & Supply
- Based on the daily data, it’s clear that there is a widely variable number of vaccines being given to patients each day. What targets have been given to hospitals/hubs on how many vaccines are to be administered per day?
- As of early January, Wisconsin is reported to be receiving approximately 70,000 vaccines per week. Governor Evers has also signed onto several letters and communications to the federal government requesting significantly more supply of the vaccine.
- How many vaccines is WI administering each week?
- If all vaccinators were administering vaccines at their maximum capacity in a day, how many vaccines is the state capable of giving in a single day?
- During an SDMAC subcommittee meeting, a member of the committee specifically brought up concerns that there are several vaccinating locations where vaccines are sitting unused, as the vaccinator had no one to administer them towards.
- How much of our state’s supply is currently sitting with a vaccinator who does not have a population to whom they may administer the vaccine?
- How many “vaccinating slots” go unused each week, as the current vaccinators fail to vaccinate at their top capacity?
- What is being done to address these system errors and ensure vaccines are efficiently administered?
- Some states have unfortunately had vaccines expire while waiting to be administered. Others have reported vaccinating family members of hospital personnel in the hours before vaccines were set to expire.
- Has Wisconsin had any vaccines expire?
- Is there an emergency plan in place if providers have vaccines near expiration?
Transparency & Communication
- In response to the question of why Wisconsin is reported to be lagging behind other Midwest states in terms of vaccine distribution, Governor Evers stated that “there are some things that can’t be compared.” Similarly, in a response to my office from DHS, it was stated that comparing vaccination data from Wisconsin to our Midwest neighbors is like comparing apples and oranges.
- Why is comparing vaccination data that shows vaccinations as a percent of the population a misleading metric?
- What metrics should we track to ensure Wisconsin remains on pace with other states?
- What metrics and benchmarks does your department use to ensure our state is vaccinating at its top capacity?
Senator Darling represents portions of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.