MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin is ready to begin distributing coronavirus vaccines by mid-December, when it hopes to receive nearly 50,000 doses, state health officials said.
The state will work with 97 local health departments and tribal jurisdictions, as well as health care providers, pharmacies, community-based organizations and other public agencies to distribute the vaccine, according to Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt.
More than 1,100 providers and 485 organizations have submitted forms to become vaccine providers, Goodsitt told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the first shipments to arrive by mid-December.
Health care workers who have treated or been exposed to COVID-19 patients, residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities, people over age 65, and some essential workers will be the first to receive the vaccine once it arrives.
Vaccines for the general public aren’t expected to be available until the spring.
The state will be in need of funding to cover distribution costs as federal help runs out at the end of the year, Goodsitt said.
Also Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced that Wisconsin restaurants and other small businesses affected by the pandemic will receive $45 million in grants. Eligible businesses will get $20,000 by the end of the year. No application is necessary, since eligible businesses will be identified through state tax records and contacted by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
“Restaurants and other venues have been among the businesses hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Evers said in a statement. “They’ve made the tough decisions to keep employees and customers safe by restricting indoor seating, offering delivery and curbside pick-up, and providing outdoor tables. We greatly appreciate the changes they’ve made to prioritize the health and safety of our communities, but now with winter coming, we are glad to provide this support at a critical time.”
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos praised the funding, saying he was pleased to see money being directed toward restaurants that have been hard hit during the pandemic.