- Associated Press - Monday, December 28, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Two pharmacy chains have launched a massive effort Monday to inject tens of thousands of Wisconsin nursing home residents and workers with a COVID-19 vaccine, offering a sliver of hope to a population devastated by the runaway disease.

CVS Health and Walgreens teams started visiting homes and inoculating residents and staff with the Moderna vaccine Monday morning, said Rick Abrams, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living. The nonprofit organization advocates for the state’s long-term care industry and residents. The effort is part of the chains’ plan to vaccinate residents and workers at long-term care facilities across all 50 states.

COVID-19 has proven especially deadly in the assisted living sector. According to the state Department of Health Services, 27% of the 4,711 people who have died from the disease in Wisconsin were long-term care residents.

“The mood, the feeling is one of great anticipation,” Abrams said of the vaccination effort. “We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you think about what has been accomplished in less than a year … it has been one of the most important public health feats in the history of the world.”

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration announced Monday that the DHS has allocated 56,800 vaccine doses to the pharmacy chains for long-term care facility inoculations.

But the campaign won’t be quick. Wisconsin is home to about 60,000 long-term care residents, Abrams said. Not only will they be vaccinated, the chains also hope to inoculate anyone who comes into regular contact with them. That means an undetermined number of nurses, custodians, chefs and other facility employees will be lining up as well, Abrams said. Each person requires two doses.

Walgreens officials have said about 3 million workers serve long-term care residents across the country. Abrams did not have an estimate of how many staffers are employed in Wisconsin.

CVS Health officials said they’ve partnered with about 1,800 facilities to deliver vaccines on-site. Walgreens officials said they didn’t have any specifics on their Wisconsin vaccination efforts, but Abrams said it could be three months before inoculations are complete. Evers’ administration said the program could take about two months.

As of Sunday, 39,501 vaccine doses had been administered across the state, including 35,595 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 3,905 doses of Moderna and one unspecified dose, according to the DHS. The federal government has allocated 129,675 Pfizer doses and 135,900 Moderna doses to Wisconsin. DHS officials didn’t immediately respond to an email asking how many doses the state has actually received. State officials have prioritized health care workers and long-term care residents as the first recipients.

Meanwhile, the department reported 1,335 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide Monday, bringing the total number of infections since March to 472,153.

The disease was a factor in 19 more deaths, pushing the state’s death toll to 4,711. The survival rate still stands at 99%.

State Rep. Tod Ohnstad, a Kenosha Democrat, announced Monday that has tested positive for COVID-19 but with only mild symptoms. He said he doesn’t know where or when he was exposed.

“Vaccines have been developed, but we must all remain vigilant until they are widely available and distributed,” Ohnstad said in a statement. “I have worked diligently to follow the guidelines, but if I can get a positive test, you could too. Wear a mask, distance appropriately, wash regularly, stay home if you can, and when in doubt, go and get tested.”


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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