Teachers, child care emphasized in state committee Phase 1b vaccine recommendations

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- We're one step closer to knowing who will be in the second tier to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, or Phase 1b.

The state's vaccine subcommittee sorted through more than 5,000 public comments. On Thursday, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, or SDMAC, voted to finalized its list of who should be in Phase 1b.

The list includes 911 operators, utility employees, teachers and child care workers, bus drivers and other public transit workers, grocery store employees, non-frontline health care personnel, mink farmers, IRIS and Family Care recipients and people in congregate living such as homeless shelters and inmates.

If the list is approved, about 45 percent of Wisconsin adults will be in Phase 1a or 1b. Committee members noted that would mean nearly half the adults in Wisconsin would be eligible for the vaccine.

"This was a very difficult and pretty cutthroat process with these groups," said Ann Lewandowski, the founder of Wisconsin Immunization Neighborhood. Lewandowski also co-chairs the vaccine subcommittee.

The State Department of Health Services will now review SDMAC's recommendations. Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the department will publish the final list of who is in Phase 1b early next week.

"We're very excited to receive the final recommendations and to delve into them," she said.

SDMAC members decided to give special emphasis to teachers and child care workers, which will likely put them next in line. Their rationale was many teachers are in close proximity to children, who are not able to be vaccinated.

"There is no timeline yet for immunizing those under 16 years of age," said Michael Gutzeit, chief medical officer for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Van Dijk said their reasoning "makes sense" to her.

"Our schools are so important. Our children are so important. We know this is a system that has been deeply disrupted during the past year," Van Dijk said.

As part of 1b, the state has already approved police and firefighters, as well as people 65 and older -- who are able to start getting vaccine doses on Monday, Jan. 25. There are more than 700,000 people in that age group alone, and Gov. Tony Evers said getting through them will take time.

"The amount of vaccine we get from the federal government will help determine how quickly we can get through this group. But we're going to get started with the supplies we have available now," Evers said.

The 1c group will likely include immunocompromised adults and other essential workers. After that group, it will be time for the general public to get vaccinated. However, that is still months away.

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