Republican lawmakers say Wisconsin's vaccine rollout is slow, 'unacceptable'
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Why haven't more people in Wisconsin been vaccinated against COVID-19? Republican lawmakers held a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 14, hoping to find out.
Gov. Tony Evers' administration has said the general public likely won't be able to get the vaccine until summer. On Thursday, Republicans called that "unacceptable" and said the rollout has been far too slow.
More than 195,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Wisconsin.
"This is a great accomplishment, but it is not enough. Last week, we had more requests from our vaccinators to immunize Phase 1A health care workers than we had vaccine to send to them. We need more vaccines from our federal partners," said Lisa Olson, assistant deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Olson said there's a supply issue, and local health departments agreed.
"Vaccine supply from federal governments to departments like my own in local public health has been the key limitation to getting shots in arms," said Darren Rausch, health officer for the Greenfield Health Department.
But Republican lawmakers on the Assembly Health Committee criticized that notion.
"DHS wants to continue to really blame this on the federal government, and it's not their fault," said committee chair Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin).
Sanfelippo and other GOP lawmakers asked why the federal government has allocated more than 600,000 doses, but only about a third of them has been administered.
"We're kind of going around in the circle and we're saying that supply is low, but then we can't even get half of them of them out to the people," said Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville).
Olson said another third has been set aside for the partnerships with long-term care facilities and pharmacy chains, and the final third is either "in transit of on the shelves of our vaccinators."
State data shows 607,650 doses have been allocated to Wisconsin, but only 373,100 have been shipped.
The Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin told the committee out of approximately 300 pharmacies that are vaccinators (excluding CVS and Walgreens and health system pharmacies), only 12 of them have received vaccine doses to administer.
"Our members are ready. They just need the vaccine in hand," said Danielle Womack, vice president of public affairs for the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.
Democratic Rep. Daniel Riemer defended DHS.
Questions were also raised about how Wisconsin's vaccine distribution compares to other states.
"If the state of Wisconsin was at the top of the list for states around the nation in distributing the vaccine, we probably wouldn't be here today," Murphy told Olson.
"Wisconsin is in the middle of the pack when it comes to states," Olson responded. "We want nothing more than to be first."
Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said despite criticisms otherwise, Wisconsin isn't that far behind other states.
"We're not even close to having vaccinated enough people so what we need to do is ... look through the best practices from other states, do our best to catch up and learn from that," Raymond said.
Womack said it will also be easier to administer more shots once pharmacists know who's in the Phase 1B category. The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee is set to finalize recommendations for 1B next week.