The Mobile Vaccination Program, an initiative from Gov. Tony Evers to accelerate vaccination efforts and expand access to all corners of Wisconsin by assisting local health departments with staffing support and resources launched Jan. 19.
In a COVID-19 media briefing Jan. 15, Evers, Deputy Secretary of Health Julie Willems Van Dijk and Chief Medical Officer at the University of Wisconsin Dr. Ryan Westergaard gave more details about Evers’ program.
In the briefing, Van Dijk said the program requires mobile vaccination teams to register, vaccinate and monitor patients who receive the vaccine. Twelve to 15 people comprise these mobile vaccination teams.
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“We’re starting small to learn, and we will grow as we move forward,” Van Dijk said in the briefing. “Right now, they are thinking they’re going to be able to do about 70 to 140 tests per day.”
According to Van Dijk, Wisconsin needs to receive 1.4 million doses of the vaccine every month to achieve herd immunity, but is currently only receiving 467,000 doses per month. Some teams proved they could perform 600 to 700 vaccinations per day after quickly refining their skills.
Democratic governors of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota sent a letter to the former U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, explaining their frustrations with the federal government’s vaccine rollout and asking permission for states to buy their own stockpiles of vaccines.
In the briefing, Evers said former Vice President Mike Pence told him the federal government is going to empty their stockpile for state use. But Evers questioned whether this was realistic.
“Now we find out today, at least from what the media is reporting, that the cupboard is bare in Washington D.C.,” Evers said. “It just boggles the mind.”
Preventive Medicine Resident at UW Dr. Devlin Cole said the vaccines that arrive at UW Health are all recently made and shipped directly from the manufacturer, so it seems unlikely that a stockpile of any kind still exists.
Evers said the vaccine has yet to be distributed to more people in Wisconsin due to the federal government’s failure to distribute large quantities of vaccines to all the states.
But President Joe Biden released a 200 page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, which aims to speed up vaccination on a national scale.
According to Cole, the Mobile Vaccination Program’s use of UW medical students is crucial, because there is a shortage of trained personnel to administer vaccinations.
“Utilizing students has double benefits,” Cole said. “It provides extra hands that don’t take nurses away from the hospitals and also provides students necessary clinical time as a way to become involved during the pandemic.”
A press release from the Governor’s Office stated the teams will be staffed by trained members of the National Guard, as well as medical, pharmacy and nursing students from UW.
In the press release, the UW System also announced it would offer $500 of tuition credit to students who administer the vaccines on these teams.
UW junior and Brookdale Senior Living employee Quinn McBride has been working at Brookdale to gain necessary medical experience by giving medication and basic injections to residents.
McBride said they would consider working on a Mobile Vaccination Team, but remains skeptical of how beneficial the experience could be for students if the team only requires students to learn how to administer vaccinations, McBride said.
“It would be a good experience overall,” McBride said. “But it wouldn’t be a very holistic education.”
The first doses of the vaccine were given to employees and students Jan. 5, UW news reported.
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UW senior and COVID-19 testing-center worker Ellie Hoffman will receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine this week.
According to Hoffman, working in the testing center provided Hoffman with many opportunities to gain patient contact hours and to receive the vaccine earlier than most.
“I feel very fortunate that I can get a vaccine,” Hoffman said, “I’m excited to get vaccinated because I know it’ll protect me.”