Health officials determining who's next in line for COVID-19 vaccine after frontline health workers, nursing homes

NOW: Health officials determining who’s next in line for COVID-19 vaccine after frontline health workers, nursing homes

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The COVID-19 vaccine is now actively being distributed to frontline health care workers and then soon to long-term care facilities, but it begs the question, who is next in line? What factors are taken into consideration with essential workers who may be the next ones to get the vaccine?

Doctors say it won’t be an easy decision as to who gets the next round of vaccines. Area health officials say we are in phase 1a with health care workers and nursing homes, and phases 1b and 1c are now being decided.

“This next round it gets a little more difficult to say you know, who’s in what position in line to get that vaccine?” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer and emergency medicine physician at UW Health.

Milwaukee County health officials say it’s expected phase 1b and 1c groups would include many essential categories like people working in food, education, law enforcement and manufacturing.

“Our essential workers who have kept our kitchens stocked, our transportation running, our children educated and our communities safe and functioning over this last year,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Weston says the groups are still being considered and will be fleshed out on a national level within a week or two. Health officials are working with federal and state committees to help set guidelines.

"Each of those committees takes in to account equity related issues, disease burden related issues, and will determine how to define those subgroups,” added Dr. Weston.

"I think it’s you know, what is the role that you do that keeps society running? That’s the first bucket, and then the second bucket is how much risk do you take on when you do that?” said Dr. Pothof. 

As to when phase 1b and 1c groups get the vaccines, Dr. Weston says the timing can fluctuate and depends on manufacturing and logistics.

“With that said, it seems likely that each of these groups should likely be offered vaccine between now and the spring,” he says.

“What I hope is that production catches up in such a rapid way that we don’t have to worry about this and anyone who wants a vaccine can just go get it, that would be the ideal state,” Dr. Pothof said.

Along with essential workers, Dr. Weston says people with high-risk medical conditions and in advanced age groups will also be considered in the next phase groups.

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