March marks steps forward for Wisconsin’s vaccination efforts

NOW: March marks steps forward for Wisconsin’s vaccination efforts

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Wisconsin takes three major steps forward in its vaccination efforts on March 1 with more groups being eligible for the vaccine, the state’s vaccine registry site launching and shipments of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine set to begin.

The groups eligible starting March 1 include educators, child care staff, those enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public-facing essential workers, non-frontline health care workers and those living and working in congregate living settings.

The state’s COVID-19 vaccine registry also kicks off on March 1. It allows residents who are eligible to receive the vaccine to register and schedule vaccinations locally.

While the infrastructure is in place in most of the state to distribute vaccines, supply is not meeting demand. That is expected to change when the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine is set to begin shipping early this week.

“To have another vaccine that’s actually pretty easily produced and very easily distributed through various parts of the country is going to be a huge game-changer in terms of being able to get vaccines into people’s arms more quickly,” UW Health’s Dr. William Hartman told CBS 58 in an interview.

Dr. Hartman is the principal investigator for UW Health’s AstraZeneca vaccine trial.

He said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has important advantages like being cheaper to produce, requiring only a single dose and easier storage.

Dr. Hartman said even though the J&J vaccine tested less effective in protecting against COVID-19 compared to its Pfizer and Moderna counterparts, it was 100 percent effective against preventing death in trials. On top of that, it was tested more against variants that originated in the UK and South Africa.

“The overall effect of being able to prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19, these are extremely effective vaccines,” Harman said. “If this was the vaccine that I was offered or my family was offered, I would absolutely take it.”

UW Health is home to one of the clinical trials for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Hartman expects AstraZeneca to get emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine eventually which would add a fourth vaccine into the mix and help accelerate vaccination efforts in the U.S. and around the world.

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