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A health care worker at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a staff member on Dec. 17. The state Department of Health Services continues a debate this month over which groups of people will be eligible to receive vaccines in Phase 1B.

EAU CLAIRE — The state Department of Health Services has announced two more groups that can start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week, as state health officials this week work to pin down what the next phase of vaccinations will look like.

DHS hasn’t yet formally designated who will be included in Phase 1B, the second mass category of Wisconsin residents eligible to get a vaccine.

If Phase 1B were to include people 75 and older and “frontline essential workers,” according to DHS documents, it could represent 1.1 million Wisconsin residents.

If the state follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the next group, Phase 1C, could include other essential workers, people 65 and older and people 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions. If so, the Phase 1C groups would be about 1.7 million Wisconsin residents, according to DHS documents.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Monday that the general public not included in Phases 1A, 1B or 1C will be able to get a vaccine starting in spring or early summer.

About 550,000 people, dubbed Phase 1A, are being offered vaccines in Wisconsin now.

Phase 1A includes health care workers, long-term care staff and long-term care residents.

The state anticipates moving into Phase 1B before the end of January, Van Dijk said last week.

Police and fire department workers, presumed to be two of several groups included in Phase 1B, will be offered the vaccine starting Jan. 18, DHS announced Monday.

DHS estimates there will be 30,000 police and fire workers eligible to get the vaccine starting next week, Van Dijk said.

“Operationally, this is a seamless way to begin our movement into Phase 1B, since police and fire are already working so closely with EMS and local and tribal health deptartments across Wisconsin,” Van Dijk said Monday on a phone call with reporters. “However, there are many people in Phase 1A who still need to be vaccinated.”

Public calls for speed

The Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin on Monday called for the state to immediately begin vaccinating Phase 1B and urging the state to broadly distribute the vaccine to Wisconsin pharmacies, in a letter to Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the state Department of Health Services.

“Our members are ready and able to provide rapid vaccination to this priority group, greatly increasing both the overall population vaccine coverage and coverage for high-risk individuals,” the group wrote in the letter.

Also on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration urged the federal government to allocate Wisconsin more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it needs more than the roughly 70,000 doses it’s getting per week right now.

To fulfill every request from Wisconsin vaccinating organizations this week, the state needs 10,000 more doses than it’s already getting, the Evers administration said in a news release.

Van Dijk on Monday told reporters that Wisconsin is in danger of falling behind because the federal government is allocating doses based on overall population, not its number of residents in assisted living facilities.

“Because we have a high proportion of long term care residents and health care workers in Wisconsin compared to our population, we have a lot more people to vaccinate in Phase 1A compared to the vaccine (we’ve) received,” Van Dijk said.

Wisconsin has administered about 151,000 doses of the vaccine as of Monday. About 2,700 doses had been administered in Eau Claire County as of Thursday, county health department officials said last week.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.