(The Center Square) – After a slow start with coronavirus vaccinations, the state of Wisconsin is flinging open the door for the next round. 

Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm on Tuesday announced that anyone 65-years-old and older will be able to get the vaccine starting next week. 

“Older adults have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritizing this population will help save lives,” Palm said in a statement. “Wisconsin systems and operations are ready to vaccinate more people.”

Wisconsin has been among the slowest in the Midwest to administer its vaccine doses. As of Tuesday, DHS reported doctors and nurses have given-out 248,185 of the 473.300 doses that have been shipped to the state. That’s just over 52% of available doses. Wisconsin has been allocated over 779,000 doses, but many of them have not yet been shipped. 

Palm said Wisconsin receives about 70,000 first-dose vaccines per week, so she added it will take some time to vaccinate the 700,000 people 65 and older in the state. 

“The amount of vaccine we get from the federal government will determine how quickly we can get these groups vaccinated. Our partners in health care, pharmacies and local public health are ready and up to the task,” Palm said. 

Wisconsin has taken its time, and faced criticism for, deciding who will be among those to get the vaccine next. The state’s Grocers’ Association last week blasted DHS for leaving 60,000 grocery store workers off the list while including people in jail and prison. 

Palm said DHS’s vaccine subcommittee will decide who will be included in the next round of vaccinations later this week. 

The news of a new, more open vaccine list is welcome at the Wisconsin Capitol. 

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, on Tuesday said it was about time. 

“Just last week, my colleagues and I sent a letter to DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm to tell her to ‘get out of the way’ so that our local healthcare providers and public health agencies could deploy vaccines to the most vulnerable members of our communities,” Marklein said. “I am thankful that she heard our call and is allowing our local hospitals and healthcare providers to save lives.”

Marklein said, however, there is no need to wait to get the vaccine into people’s arms. He said part of DHS’ order allows doctors and nurses to use extra vaccine doses on eligible patients before the vaccine expires. 

“They can begin right away!,” Marklein added. 

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.