ThedaCare announced that northeast and central Wisconsin could see the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines within the coming weeks. The initial COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration as early as mid-December, with the first shipment expected immediately after authorization.
Federal and state authorities call for health care personnel to be offered vaccines in the first phase of the program, starting with hospital workers, emergency responders and long-term care staff.
The initial priority will be to vaccinate health care personnel who are at high occupational risk for exposure to COVID-19 and those working in roles that are essential to the COVID-19 response. ThedaCare expects the program will expand to all health care personnel soon, as well as community members at high risk of COVID-19 infection and complications.
As availability improves in the coming months, vaccines will be offered to others in accordance to federal and state guidelines.
“This may be a new vaccine, but we are by no means new to the practice of consistent, reliable and effective distribution of vaccines to our ThedaCare caregivers and those we serve throughout all corners of our service area,” said Dr. Imran Andrabi, president and CEO of ThedaCare. “We will follow federal and state guidelines to continue our long history of delivering vaccines safely and effectively.”
Under the guidance of Dr. Mark Cockley, chief clinical officer of the Clinically Integrated Network, and with the support of Dr. David Brooks, medical director of infectious disease for the health system, ThedaCare’s COVID-19 vaccine steering and operations committees are working closely with federal and state authorities to plan and ensure the health system is prepared for distribution as soon as an authorized vaccine is available.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be recommended, but not mandatory, for ThedaCare team members. Personal protective equipment will continue to be required at current levels regardless of team members’ decisions to receive the vaccine.
During a community leader conversation ThedaCare hosted today, Dr. Michael Hooker, vice president and chief medical officer of acute care, said the vaccines the organization is looking at will require two doses. A second dose would need to be administered two to three weeks after the first dose. The vaccine could create some temporary flu-like symptoms, and it’s important for people to understand that in advance and to not let that stop them from getting the second dose, Hooker said.
“In the long run, that’s really going to be how we get through this pandemic,” he said. “The other final point I want to make is … we all still need to do our social distancing, masking, hand hygiene, all the things that we’ve been doing, even when we start having vaccines come out and even as people are getting vaccinated.”
It’s critical to keep the situation under control as the vaccine is rolled out, he said, adding that it probably will take most of next year to have the entire population immunized or to get to a 75 to 80 percent immunity rate.
ThedaCare officials will continue to share information regularly as they learn more from federal and state authorities about the distribution of the vaccines.