MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin is nearing the point of exceeding demand for the first time, with more than 50% of the eligible population having received at least one dose and nearly 30% of the total population fully vaccinated.
State health leaders said Thursday that while the gap between supply and demand is closing, there is an increasing emphasis on reaching those who may have difficulty getting vaccinated or who have been hesitant to receive the shot to date.
As an example of the closing gap, this week 250,000 doses were requested from vaccinators, down from 400,000 the week before, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Of the 250,000 doses requested, the state had 150,000 available to distribute to vaccinators, she said.
Also, after seven straight weeks of increasing numbers of vaccinations, in the week beginning April 11 the number of doses given declined from about 419,000 to 343,000.
There were several reasons for the decline, in part due to an influx of 85,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine the week before, followed by a halt in administering that vaccine the week of the drop, Willem Van Dijk said. The large number of people who have been vaccinated to date also has an impact on lessening demand, she said.
“Think about it: 4 million doses have already been given so there’s not going to be as many calls coming for each and every dose," Willems Van Dijk said.
As of Thursday, nearly 2.4 million people, or 41.1% of Wisconsin's total population, has received at least one shot and more than 1.7 million people, or 29.7% of the population, is fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. About 1.5 million more people need to be fully vaccinated to reach 80% of the total population, the target for herd immunity, Willems Van Dijk said.
Reaching herd immunity is still possible by the July Fourth holiday, if vaccination rates continue at the current pace, she said. That is the target that President Joe Biden has set for reaching herd immunity nationally.
“Each person who gets vaccinated is more protection for them and others around them,” Willems Van Dijk said. “We've made incredible progress and we will continue to do whatever we can to make progress.”
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state's chief medical officer, said that reaching 80% is the goal but hitting 65% is not a failure.
“We've saved many lives,” he said.
Willems Van Dijk said the state was trying to reach those who have yet to be vaccinated by holding smaller community clinics and working with leaders such as pastors, physicians and others to contact those who may be hesitant.
Also on Thursday, leaders of the University of Wisconsin System's two largest institutions reiterated that students, faculty and staff will not face mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations to return to campus this fall.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone said during a virtual luncheon that it's crucial students return to in-person courses this fall. Both schools are suffering massive financial hits as the pandemic drags on due to lost housing and food revenue. Blank said UW-Madison expects losses to total $320 million by the end of June; Mone said UW-Milwaukee expects nearly $90 million in losses by then.
Mone said 75% of UW-System employees and about 20% of students have already been vaccinated.
WisPolitics.com and the Milwaukee Press Club hosted the luncheon.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.