Wisconsin lawmakers split along party lines over who’s to blame for vaccine rollout delays

Last updated on January 12th, 2021 at 02:16 pm

As Wisconsin continues to trail its Midwestern peers in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, Republican Congressman Bryan Steil on Monday criticized Gov. Tony Evers’ Administration’s rollout effort while Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the Trump Administration is to blame for delays.

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville

Steil, of Janesville, shared on Monday Evers’ answers to a request he and Baldwin made in December for more information about the state’s vaccine plan, saying they show a “stunning lack of urgency” in light of how Wisconsin stacks up against other states in administering the vaccine.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Wisconsin has administered 2,323 first COVID-19 vaccine doses per 100,000 residents, which is more than double its per-capita rate from a week ago, but is the 10th lowest out of 12 states in the Midwest.

“The vaccine will save lives and the ability to effectively distribute the vaccine is a matter of life and death for thousands of people in our state. With so many lives and jobs on the line, we need our governor to expect to lead the country in getting out vaccines, not spend his time making excuses for lagging behind,” Steil said. “If Governor Evers cannot figure out how to distribute the vaccine to those who need it, he should step aside and let someone who can lead this effort do it.”

Evers’ office could not immediately be reached for comment on Steil’s statement Monday.

Baldwin issued a separate statement Monday, joining 42 Democratic senators in calling out the Trump administration’s “failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin D-Madison

“For months, I have been urging the Trump administration to effectively work and communicate with Wisconsin, vaccine and PPE manufacturers, and health care providers to develop a national plan for vaccine distribution and administration,” Baldwin said. “Their response has been a pathetic failure. That is why I am calling on (Health and Human Services Secretary Alex) Azar to take immediate action to fix the significant failures of the vaccine distribution process as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Wisconsin.”

Evers on Monday called on the federal government to increase the state’s weekly COVID-19 vaccine dose allocations, noting this is the first week Wisconsin’s demand will exceed its vaccine supply. Wisconsin has administered 151,518 doses as of Monday afternoon.

The state needs more than 10,000 additional doses to fulfill requests from vaccinating entities across the state, Evers said.

Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

Evers has repeatedly asked the federal government for additional vaccine, including a letter sent by a group of Democratic governors last week.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials have also asked Operation Warp Speed for additional doses and better forecasting of weekly allocations to be able to plan and project.

“Our vaccine team is working across the state on vaccine distribution, and so many Wisconsinites are ready to get vaccinated and get back to our Wisconsin way of life,” Evers said. “In a state where our statewide mitigation strategies have been struck down and challenged time and time again, it is absolutely critical that Wisconsin get additional doses of vaccine to meet demand and box in the virus.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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