Don’t Foist Wisconsin’s Failures on the Rest of Us

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As President Joe Biden announces his top picks for his administration, it is notable that Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has been chosen as the Biden administration’s Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary. The concern of this high-level pick arises from the current situation in Andrea Palm’s home state of Wisconsin. As of January 13, the Badger state is ranked 41 out of the 50 states in terms of vaccine distribution, and that rank is on the decline. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of January 19, Wisconsin maintains the worst ranking in the Midwest, and down to 44th nationally.

The states are often referred to as laboratories of democracy, and according to that logic, Andrea Palm relinquishing her position to move to a higher office and impact national policy is downright frightening and reckless.

From the start, Gov. Evers’ vaccine plan lacked transparency. Back in December, Rep Bryan Steil (R-WI) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asked specific questions to address some of the problems we are now seeing in the state. Rep. Steil said, “The coronavirus vaccines play a crucial role in keeping our communities safe and defeating this virus. Across the state, frontline workers, seniors, and our most vulnerable populations are uncertain about when they are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. We must ensure the State of Wisconsin has a plan in place to disseminate information to the public and allocate the vaccine. Wisconsin’s vaccination campaign must be fair and transparent, and we must ensure anyone who wants to receive a vaccine has the ability to do so.”

State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), chair of the Health Committee, called the distribution timeline “unacceptable.” “We’ve known that these vaccines were coming, and we’ve known that this process needed to be put into place for several months now, and for us to wait until July to be able to get to the general public … that’s not fast enough,” he said. The representative also noted that less than half of the vaccine doses that have been shipped to Wisconsin have been administered.

There has also been criticism regarding who is eligible for the vaccine. The goal should be to ensure the most vulnerable residents get access first. With age being the highest risk factor, elderly populations should be given priority. More than 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among those aged 60 and older.

Rep. Sanfelippo introduced two pieces of legislation that would expedite distribution of the vaccine to vulnerable communities, and also allow pharmacy tech workers and students to administer the vaccine. These measures are common sense and should be signed into law immediately. Wisconsin’s distribution plan is currently ranked one of the worst in the nation and it is a total disservice to all Wisconsinites. As such, Andrea Palm has no businesses addressing public health at the national level.

Wisconsin, like all states, should focus on getting the vaccine to its high-risk patients. Because Andrea Palm was an abysmal failure in her position as secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, she should not be promoted to a prominent position in the Biden administration.

Christina Herrin ([email protected]) is the government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill.