Who will be first in Wisconsin to get the COVID-19 vaccines?

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GREENFIELD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin is expecting 65,000 doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the year, but the general public will have to wait several months to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Leading health experts in Wisconsin are still finalizing who should get the first doses. Among the top tier will be health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities.

Julie Jolitz, chief clinical officer of Luther Manor in Wauwatosa, said it's been an emotional year.

"All of us have slowly transitioned back into some new normal. Unfortunately, our nursing home residents have not. They have been isolated in their rooms. They have been very vulnerable to the virus because of pre-existing conditions," Jolitz said.

The nursing home was recently listed among America’s Best Nursing Homes 2021 in part because of its response to the pandemic.

She said staff are apprehensive but excited that long-term care facilities will likely be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

"I think it's most important that the staff actually receive the vaccine prior to the residents because the residents are not bringing it into themselves. We, as the caregivers, unfortunately have brought that into our facilities, and no fault of our own. But we have brought that in and we've caused that risk to be there," Jolitz said.

The vaccine subcommittee of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee has recommended who should be in what's known as Phase 1A, the top tier able to receive the vaccine. It also includes doctors and other health care professionals, home health workers, and paramedics and EMS workers if they respond in a medical capacity.

"Medical services is the vast majority of what firefighters provide to our communities. Upwards of 80 or more percent of the calls that we go on are medical in nature," said Greenfield Fire Chief Jon Cohn.

Cohn said his industry fought hard to get that prioritization.

"We are working in conditions that are not sterile. We're going into people's homes having close contacts. The back of our ambulances are very small spaces," Cohn said.

He said the vaccine is providing optimism among his department.

"The way that we live and work in our stations, There's a desire to return to some level of normalcy. And that vaccine, I think, is our hope," Cohn said.

But he worries about supply issues causing prioritization even within the top tier.

"Even though we're all bunched in (Phase) 1A, there will likely be still competition between the 1As. And when there's a supply issue, they'll obviously have to be prioritization, even within the 1As," Cohn said.

Cohn said EMS and paramedics can also be trained to administer the vaccines when the time comes, which is another reason he believes his industry deserves to be first in line to receive the doses.

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