By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin will receive 47,000 doses next week of the newly approved coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, an amount Gov. Tony Evers on Monday called a “game changer” in the state’s fight against COVID-19.
The news came the same day that teachers, child care workers, grocery store employees and others in a group of about 700,000 became eligible for the vaccine. Under the increasing numbers, the state was urging people to check its vaccine availability map of local providers. A new vaccine registry, only being used by a small number of local health departments but expected to grow in coming weeks, also officially launched Monday.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is going to be a game changer for our statewide response to COVID-19,” Evers said in a statement. “One of the biggest hurdles we have faced is supply, and this will get more vaccine into Wisconsin.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being heralded by health officials because unlike existing vaccines it only requires one dose. It can also be kept in a refrigerator for up to three months, allowing it to be shipped directly to all parts of the state, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said.
Agency Secretary Karen Timberlake urged people to take whichever of the three vaccines they are offered.
“Vaccinations are some of the best tools we have to overcome this virus,” she said. “And just one year ago, we would have been astonished and thrilled to know that we would have three effective and safe vaccines available to us.”
Last week, 233,888 doses of the vaccine were administered in Wisconsin, the most of any week since vaccinations began, the health department said. That was about 16,000 more doses than the previous high set the week of Jan. 31.
On Monday, teachers and others joined frontline health care workers and those over age 65 as being eligible for the vaccine in Wisconsin.
Others newly eligible are child care workers; bus drivers and other public transit workers; utility workers; grocery store employees and others in the food supply chain; people enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs; 911 dispatchers; mink farmers; prison inmates; non-essential health care workers; and staff in shared housing situations such as condominiums, student dorms and prisons.
State health officials said they were prioritizing teachers as some large districts that had been closed to in-person learning since last year, including Madison, plan to reopen this month.
More than 54% of Wisconsin residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Sunday, 16.4% of Wisconsin’s population had received at least one dose, ranking the state 19th, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was ahead of the national average of 15%.
In Wisconsin, 8.5% of the population, more than 492,000 people, had received both doses. More than 912,000 people had received at least one shot, according to the state health department.