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Health care leaders explain why Wisconsin rose to top 20 in vaccines administered nationally

Posted at 7:15 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 22:23:13-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — Just last week, Wisconsin ranked 45th nationally in vaccine administration.

Shots weren't getting into enough arms.

"The ramp up was probably a little bit slower because we started right around the Christmas and New Year Holiday," said Ascension Medical Group Wisconsin's Carol Opgenorth, the V.P. of Operations of the Fox Valley Region. "But after that, I think it really ramped up fairly quickly."

But just how quickly? Since last week, the CDC reports Wisconsin has gone from the bottom five states to the top 20 in shots given. The Department of Health Services lists over 650,000 doses have been administered.

Dr. Chris Green thinks he knows the reason why.

"I think the biggest amount that got us up to 20 was the state had some [vaccines] and they were able to push that out" Green, the Chief Medical Officer with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said. "And the sites are now ready to give it. And they've given it."

Ascension Wisconsin says it's vaccinated nearly 2,000 people in Appleton. The system says growing pains caused a slow rollout.

"It doesn't take quite as many vaccinators as we thought" Opgenorth said. "We can get this many more patients through each 15 minutes."

Speeding things up, the state reports it's getting an 18-percent increase in its vaccine supply every week.
"We're able to, right now across the state, give about 10,000 doses per week," Opgenorth said.

Obviously, the goal is always to give out shots at a higher rate. But some say the supply needs to be even

"I'm sure we will get more with Pfizer and Moderna trying to ramp up their production, but we have no timelines on that," Green said.

But local health systems say make no mistake. If they have the vaccines, they're ready to get even more into arms.

According to the CDC as of Feb. 3, at least one shot has been given to around 7.9 percent of Wisconsin's population, which puts the state in the top 30 overall ranking in the country.

“We’re on a roll," Deputy Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said in Tuesday's DHS media briefing. "We’re moving forward. We promised you we would."

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the data reported by the CDC lags behind the state's most accurate information on vaccinations. And each state has authority to choose who it prioritizes in the vaccine administration pecking order. Currently, Wisconsin is allotting its supply to healthcare workers, first responders and people over the age of 65.

As of Tuesday, Feb. 2, the DHS lists 659,025 doses have been put into arms statewide out of 986,275 allocated to Wisconsin.

According to the CDC's latest data, the state has used around 59% of its vaccines.