(Shutterstock image)
(Shutterstock image)

Evers says he plans to extend statewide mask order that is set to expire Tuesday. 

Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced on Friday they will launch a mobile vaccination pilot program next week to speed up the pace of vaccination. 

Evers also announced that he plans to extend the emergency order and accompanying mask mandate, which were scheduled to expire on Tuesday. 

The nine initial mobile vaccination units will not be open to the general public, but are being rolled out at the same time DHS is expanding the 1A group of individuals to be vaccinated to include police and firefighters. Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the sites will make it easier for this expanded group and unaffiliated medical workers to access the vaccine. 

The long-term goal is that the program will expand as more vaccine doses become available to the state. Once the general public can receive the vaccine, these vaccination sites, located across the state, will be opened to the public and facilitate widespread distribution.

The sites will be run by the Wisconsin National Guard and are the result of a collaboration between local health departments, healthcare providers, and UW Systems. Ashok Rai, president and CEO of Prevea Health said Prevea will help facilitate the site at the UW-Green Bay campus, which is scheduled to open next week.

This comes just after the Assembly Health Committee held a hearing on the vaccine distribution, where DHS Assistant Deputy Secretary Lisa Olson testified that the biggest issue with distribution was the lack of vaccines the state was receiving from the federal government. 

Chair Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) after the hearing issued a statement calling the vaccine group system unnecessary and bureaucratic, citing issues in New York state. 

Willems Van Dijk stressed that the vaccine groups were not the issue in Wisconsin.

“The prioritization is not slowing down vaccination in any form,” Willems Van Dijk said. 

Officials also expressed frustration that the federal government had promised earlier this week to distribute vaccines that had been stockpiled for second doses, only to learn through a Washington Post story on Friday that there are none. 

“I was told by Vice President [Mike Pence] on Tuesday, ‘We’re opening the gate. We’re sending you what was stockpiled.’ They may have been telling the truth because the number was zero,” Evers said. “I have no idea why they made that claim.”