Republicans propose all Wisconsinites become eligible for vaccinations by March, bar prisoners

NOW: Republicans propose all Wisconsinites become eligible for vaccinations by March, bar prisoners

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers are proposing everyone in the state to become eligible for the vaccine by mid-March and want to have inmates wait longer for vaccines under legislation introduced this week. 

A state advisory board is currently in charge of approving vaccine priority but Republicans are trying to bypass the committee introducing proposals to have a say in the process. 

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) introduced a bill to open up eligibility to every Wisconsin resident by mid-March. He believes as the federal government ramps up production of vaccines and with additional companies on the brink of approval from the FDA, opening up eligibility to all Wisconsinites will allow the state to keep up with demand. 

"The supply should ramp up pretty quickly and I just want us to be able to take advantage of that to get folks vaccinated as fast as possible," said Sanfelippo.

Sen. Latonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) believes the idea could create unfair advantages as some people don't have insurance and would be unable to call their health care provider to schedule an appointment. She supports having the state advisory board make the decisions when administering vaccines. 

"We are not the experts, we need to leave these decisions to them," said Johnson. 

Another bill would bar the state from prioritizing prisoners from receiving the vaccine before the general public has access to it. 

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) says essential workers like grocery store employees should be prioritized before those who are behind bars. 

“The (state) is just going to do all the prisoners, 20,000 prisoners? That doesn’t make any sense when we have people that are essential to our state that continue to work,” said Wanggaard.

Advocates argue vaccinating the prison population early benefits the whole state.

“These outbreaks inside of prisons affect those outside of prisons,” said Sean Wilson, ACLU Wisconsin Smart Justice Campaign Manager. “It affects communities that staff members are a part of. It affects the hospital capacity.”

The Republican bill will likely go before the Assembly and Senate for a vote next week. It’s likely Gov. Tony Evers would veto the plan because he openly supports the advisory committee made up of health experts who decide who gets priority in the state. 

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