La Crosse doctors say COVID-19 vaccine for local vulnerable groups likely in coming weeks

Gundersen Health System experts on board with CDC's recommendation to offer first vaccine doses to long-term care workers and residents
P Covid Vaccine Order

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – A group of people affected by COVID-19 the most may soon be the first to get a vaccine. A decision Tuesday from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee recommends long term care workers and patients get the vaccine first.

“This has been a really difficult journey,” Dr. Elizabeth Cogbill of Gundersen Health System.

Fatigue grows on healthcare workers like weeds nestled along the curbs. People are craving good news, and Gundersen’s Dr. Raj Naik said that’s what this week has brought.

“It’s gone about as well as could be expected,” Naik said regarding progress made on a coronavirus vaccine.

The United Kingdom has already approved a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The U.S. is not far behind. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 in favor of vaccinating workers and residents of long-term care facilities first.

Naik said he thinks the first La Crosse County resident could be vaccinated within the coming weeks. The initial supply of a vaccine will be limited.

“The difficulty is trying to figure out the balance of the ethics and the science,” he said.

Cogbill leads the Gundersen long-term care team. Her team helps people in local long term facilities with COVID-19.

“It’s been a really hard year,” Cogbill said.

Even though severe complications with COVID-19 are rare in the bigger picture. Rare to Cogbill’s patients is a relative word.

“Maybe a lack of shared understanding of the seriousness of this disease in our society and our community is one of the tragic things of this pandemic,” Cogbill said.

Nonetheless, long-term-care workers and patients are the group recommended to be moved to the front of the line.

“Forty percent of all the deaths in the United States are in that population,” Naik said.

It’s only a start but it’s the start toward a goal most people have during this journey.

“We are all ready for this to just go away,” Cogbill said.

Dr. Naik serves on a statewide committee tasked with getting the vaccine to people around the state. When a vaccine is approved, he said the initial doses will be small compared to the population and will increase in the weeks and months to follow. They are still waiting on the specific data from vaccine trials.