'Hope is on the horizon': More than 1,000 Wisconsin health workers receive first COVID-19 shot

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across Wisconsin has state leaders optimistic, but Gov. Tony Evers is warning people that the state is not out of the woods just yet.

Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said it will take months just to get all of the state's 400,000 health care workers vaccinated.

Evers is encouraging people in Wisconsin to host their holiday parties on Zoom, but said vaccines are providing reasons to be optimistic.

"As we head into the new year, hope is on the horizon, folks," Evers said. "Just as we did last month, we're encouraging Wisconsinites to celebrate the holidays virtually."

Wisconsin did not see a huge surge following Thanksgiving, but state leaders said daily case numbers are still too high and hospitals still strained.

"The addition of a vaccine in our COVID-19 toolbox really is an important milestone," Palm said.

Palm said this week, the state received 50,000 vaccine doses from Pfizer. She expects a smaller shipment next week.

As of the end of the day on Wednesday, 1,010 health care workers across 45 counties have received their first dose.

"Being focused on the nuts and bolts of the logistics and distribution, I didn't really think about how much relief and excitement we'd all feel collectively as a state as vaccines started rolling out. But of course we would, and of course our health care workers would. They've seen so much suffering on the frontlines of this pandemic," Palm said.

Health care workers will need a second dose of Pfizer's vaccine in three weeks.

Moderna's vaccine will require four weeks between the first and second doses, according to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of DHS' Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

"It is possible that one dose offers some protection, but we don't know enough," Westergaard said.

Nursing home residents will be vaccinated starting on Dec 28 through a partnership with major pharmacy chains and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're working to get the COVID-9 vaccine out to folks who need it quickly, safely and equitably, and it's going to take all of us continuing to work together," Evers said.

DHS will soon begin releasing information about how many people have been vaccinated on its website, similar to the way it tracks case numbers and hospitalizations.

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