Expected shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will help Wisconsin vaccinate teachers more quickly, officials say

Christian Islas, an Escuela Vieau Public School second and third grade special education teacher, gets the COVID-19 vaccine administered by registered nurse Nikki Maves at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The roughly 47,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine set to arrive in Wisconsin next week will play a key role in quickly vaccinating teachers, state health officials said Tuesday.

On Monday, teachers and child care workers became eligible for the vaccine in Wisconsin, and it appears the expected boost in supply from Johnson & Johnson’s first shipment has allowed local vaccine providers to schedule appointments for many districts.

A quarter of Wisconsin school districts say they plan to vaccinate their teachers by March 15, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, Department of Health Services deputy secretary. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot, unlike Pfizer and Moderna, which require two, spaced three or four weeks apart. State health officials have said the single-dose means people can be vaccinated more quickly and easily.

“This is going to help us move through the educator workforce more quickly, and that will open up for others coming behind them,” she said.

DHS has asked vaccine providers to prioritize teachers over other groups that became eligible Monday as well, such as certain essential workers and people living in congregate settings.

The bulk of the Johnson & Johnson shipment will be added to the state’s school vaccination plan, Willems Van Dijk said in a media briefing Tuesday.

But teachers will have a “fairly equal chance” of receiving any of the three vaccine brands, she said.

The infusion of Johnson & Johnson vaccine also means the state has enough doses to begin vaccinating all teachers in March, Willems Van Dijk said.

Some vaccine providers will have two or three brands on hand, she said.

Track COVID-19 in Wisconsin:  See the latest data on cases and the vaccine rollout

How to interpret COVID-19 data:  What experts say about positive cases, deaths and hospitalizations

Also Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the pharmaceutical company Merck will help Johnson & Johnson make its vaccine, allowing the U.S. to have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May.

J&J was expected to produce 100 million doses by the end of June. The partnership with Merck means full delivery is expected by the end of May.

Biden also said he’s using the federal government’s pharmacy program — where doses are allocated to Walgreens and other retail pharmacies separate from the state’s allocation — to prioritize getting teachers and child care workers vaccinated by the end of March. 

New cases reported: 324

New deaths reported: 28

Number hospitalized: 271 (intensive care: 71); down 366 patients from one month ago

Seven-day average of daily cases: 575 (down 716 cases from one month ago)

Seven-day average of daily deaths: 18 (down eight from one month ago)

Seven-day average positivity rate — as a share of all tests given: 2.1%

Total cases since the start of pandemic: 564,592 (7,263 active cases)

Total deaths: 6,440

Vaccines

Total doses administered: 1,466,654

Doses administered Monday: 26,231

Wisconsin residents with at least one dose: 928,958 (16% of the population)

Residents with both doses: 505,123 (8.7% of the population)

Residents 65 and older with at least one dose: 563,852 (55.4% of 65+ population)

More:  Where can you get the vaccine in Wisconsin? Here are the different places where vaccinations may be available

Milwaukee pushes for vaccines for educators by March 15

The City of Milwaukee is pushing to get COVID-19 vaccine to all educators who want it — including teachers and child care workers — by March 15, city officials said Tuesday. 

“We want to make sure that we have the vaccinations in the arms of people before they return into the classroom,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said during a virtual briefing

Educators on Monday became eligible to receive the vaccine. The city estimates 750 were vaccinated on that day. 

Many of the educators receiving shots by the March 15 goal would still need a second dose.

Barrett said the Milwaukee Health Department is increasing the capacity of the Wisconsin Center vaccination site, where more than 1,000 people received vaccinations Monday.

He said he was hopeful that next week at least 8,000 first doses would be administered at the Wisconsin Center, in addition to second doses and doses delivered through the mobile clinics.

More than 17,000 doses for educators and child care workers are anticipated to be administered between Monday and March 14, including weekends, deputy health commissioner Marlaina Jackson said. That’s made possible through a series of partnerships with local health care systems that are also planning to vaccinate educators, she said.

Those looking to sign up for an appointment through the City of Milwaukee can visit the city’s website Milwaukee.gov/CovidVax or call 414-286-6800.

Milwaukee Health Department throws out 34 doses

The Milwaukee Health Department on Monday threw out 34 doses of the Moderna vaccine that expired before they could be used, the department said in a statement Tuesday. 

“The situation that led to the error was complicated by the instruction to give only Pfizer vaccine to teachers vaccinated on Monday,” according to the department’s statement. “Also, a number of teachers scheduled appointments on Monday without identifying themselves as teachers until arriving at the vaccination site.”

Workers prepared more syringes with the Moderna vaccine than people who came for it at the downtown Wisconsin Center site, according to the department.

This is the first time the Health Department has had any vaccine go unused, according to the department.