MON AM News: State seeing roughly 20K COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted each week; Talking Trade with Katy Sinnott, vice president of global trade and investment for WEDC

— At least 393,810 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been wasted in Wisconsin since the vaccines became available in December 2020, according to state DHS numbers reviewed by 

That’s about 4 percent of the more than 9.8 million total doses the state has received. The number of doses wasted each week has largely been escalating over the course of the pandemic, according to data provided by the agency in response to a public records request. Dose wastage began ramping up significantly in the spring, when the rate of new vaccinations in Wisconsin saw its steepest decline. 

Health officials attribute vaccine waste to vials or syringes being broken or lost, vials being opened but not fully used, and doses being drawn into syringes but not administered. Still, this level of waste isn’t limiting the number of available doses, as the state has plenty of vaccines available according to the Department of Health Services. The agency has been urging providers to prioritize getting people vaccinated over avoiding waste, so some clinics might open a vial only to administer several doses, leading to more waste. 

“When faced with situations in which the choice is between opening a vial for a few individuals and assuming waste, or asking that individuals return another day — DHS encourages all vaccinators to prioritize vaccination,” DHS Communications Specialist Jennifer Miller said in an email. “The ultimate goal at this point in the vaccination effort must be ‘no wasted opportunity,’ rather than ‘no wasted doses.’” 

The number of wasted doses exceeded 20,000 per week for the first time in mid-October, and has since reached a peak of 28,606 per week in mid-November. It dropped slightly to 19,878 in the last full week of November, the latest period for which these figures were available. 

Miller says changes to vial sizes may be contributing to higher levels of waste, as Moderna increased the number of doses per vial from 10 to 14 in response to higher vaccine demand earlier in the pandemic. Now that demand has waned, more doses per vial may be wasted if a clinic doesn’t have enough people show up for a shot. 

Since booster recommendations have been expanded to include more age ranges and mix-and-match dosing, providers are ordering and keeping more brands on hand rather than carrying a single type of vaccine. This may be contributing to increased waste as a clinic might have an open vial of Moderna and an open vial of Johnson & Johnson at the same time, depending on which is preferred by the recipient. 

“Vaccine wastage may also occur at smaller clinics or in rural communities where there are fewer people or less demand, but vaccinators are leveraging every opportunity to get shots in arms,” Miller said. 

See more in the Friday Report: 

— In the latest episode of “Talking Trade,” WEDC Vice President of Global Business Development Katy Sinnott highlights rising exports to some of the state’s top trade partners. 

Wisconsin’s exports over the past 10 months have increased 21 percent compared to the same period of 2020, with growth seen in exports to Canada, Mexico and China, she said. 

She noted pharmaceuticals and prepared vegetables shipped to Mexico have “increased by huge numbers,” while exports of medical and scientific equipment to China have also risen. 

“And when we look at our top three export products, which are industrial machinery, medical and scientific instruments, and electrical machinery, all of these categories have increased by between 6 and 10 percent, so good news,” she said. 

Sinnott also discusses programs run by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that aim to help businesses boost exports, as well as the agency’s network of trade representatives. 

“We’ve had people who have had laws change while their product is on the water, going to a country, and we’ve actually been able to use our trade representative network to find support for that company so when it landed in that country, they actually could offload their equipment and send it to their buyer,” she said. 

Watch the show here: 

— The Wisconsin Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is set to receive a nearly $1.7 million federal grant to improve accessibility for providers. 

The grant funding will be used for upgrades aimed at expanding adoption of the program’s workflow integrations and making its data more accessible within electronic health record systems. The changes are meant to benefit “rural and underserved” areas of the state. 

That’s according to the Department of Safety and Professional Services, which launched the ePDMP in 2017 alongside the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board and NIC Wisconsin, a subsidiary of Texas-based Tyler Technologies. It replaced an earlier version of the program launched in 2013.

The ePDMP was created to help combat prescription drug abuse in the state, providing information to health care providers related to prescribing and dispensing potentially addictive drugs such as opioids. Earlier upgrades to the platform have added data analytics capabilities to track providers’ prescribing patterns and flag “potentially unsafe patient prescription histories.” 

DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim says the platform has been an “invaluable tool” in Wisconsin’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, which was fueled in part by widespread misuse of prescription medications. 

“It has already transformed prescribing culture, and it continues to generate important data about prescribing trends in Wisconsin,” Crim said in a release. “This additional funding will make it more functional for and more accessible to more providers throughout the state.” 

The U.S. Department of Justice grant is part of the agency’s Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. 

See the release: 

— The head of a long-term care network in Wisconsin says he’s encouraged by the progress made in vaccinating and providing booster shots to nursing home residents. 

John Sauer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin, notes vaccination rates among both residents and staff in the state have been on the rise in recent weeks. Data from the CDC show 89.3 percent of residents at reporting facilities were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of the week of Dec. 12, while 59.6 percent of fully vaccinated residents had received an additional or booster shot. 

“I would think that is a fairly high percentage, realizing that our work is not done in terms of trying to increase vaccination rates for both residents and staff,” Sauer said in a recent interview. 

Meanwhile, 75.2 percent of staff at reporting nursing homes were fully vaccinated and 29.4 percent of fully vaccinated staff had received an additional or booster shot, the CDC dashboard shows. 

Sauer said people who are already vaccinated are more likely to “readily accept” getting the booster as well, while the real challenge is to reach those who are still unvaccinated at this point in the pandemic. 

“We’re hoping as you see the results of the vaccine, you see how it has reduced the number of people hospitalized and who might pass away, we’re hoping that … might soften people’s views about being anti-vaccine,” he said. 

The number of COVID-19 deaths among residents of skilled nursing facilities has dropped dramatically since vaccines have been available. Sauer noted that for these residents and older adults in general, the vaccines “are literally a lifesaver.” 

— Bellin Health, Children’s Wisconsin and ThedaCare have announced a new joint effort to improve pediatric health care in northeastern and central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

While the three provider organizations will continue to operate their pediatric services separately, they will work together to accomplish a set of priorities. These include: bringing additional services and specialists to the region; reducing the need for children and their families to travel elsewhere for care; establishing consistent standards of care; meeting specific community needs through tailored services; and improving the quality of care through closer collaboration. 

Three representatives from each partner group will be appointed to a joint operating board to oversee the new effort. 

“While patients today will continue to see the providers they know and trust at the locations in their communities, when patients need a higher level of care, this partnership will allow us to seamlessly transition that care through greater team connectivity, shared processes, and more,” said Chris Woleske, president and CEO of Bellin Health.

See the release: 

— Georgia-Pacific plans to invest $500 million in its Broadway mill in Green Bay and add 150 new jobs. 

The Atlanta-based company says it plans to expand its retail consumer tissue and towel business with a new paper machine as well as converting equipment and infrastructure, set to begin operation in 2024. 

The facility currently has 850 employees, a release shows, with as many as 500 construction and contract workers being brought on site for the expansion. The company operates seven facilities in Wisconsin and employs nearly 2,100 workers in the state, according to the release. 

“This truly is an investment in our customers and consumers who value the quality of our products,” Georgia-Pacific President and CEO Christian Fischer said. “We appreciate the local community, Brown County, state officials and all of our employees’ hard work and efforts to continue making our Green Bay Broadway mill more competitive for the long-term.”

See the release: 


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