DHS questions Janesville school vaccination plan

LM Otero

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services says it is investigating the School District of Janesville’s plans to vaccinate staff next week, saying the state has not yet moved on to the next phase of vaccinations.

The district announced Thursday it will not hold classes next Friday, January 22nd, so staff can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

But there is still some question as to whether that follows the state’s vaccine distribution protocols.

Educators are expected to be included in Phase 1b of the rollout — those classifications have not been finalized yet — but the state is still in Phase 1a, covering frontline health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and EMS first responders.

District spokesperson Patrick Gasper says their vaccinations are coming through Mercyhealth in Janesville, covering more than 1,300 district employees.

“State guidance indicates that providers do not have to be completely finished with phase 1a before moving on to the next phase,” Gasper said. “DHS deputy secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk has indicated they want a seamless transition between phases, that they never want to start vaccinating.”

However, Gasper says he could not answer for Mercyhealth as to why the district was getting the vaccinations if the state was still in Phase 1a. DHS says they’ll be looking into the situation.

“We appreciate that our vaccinators are looking ahead, however, teachers are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Wisconsin DHS spokesperson Elizabeth Goodsitt said in a statement to News 3 Now. “DHS is following up with vaccinators who are not following the guidelines and will be following up with Mercy.”

A spokesperson for Mercyhealth says they were working Thursday night to find out more about the process.