KENOSHA ⏤ The city of Kenosha formally approved a resolution calling for the state to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to residents free of charge.

The measure, principally sponsored by Dist. 16 Ald. Dominic Ruffalo, passed unanimously Monday night. 

Ruffalo pushes for funding

Ruffalo encouraged his colleagues to support the measure by first reminding them that 13 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 265,000 Americans have died from the virus, he said.

Ald. Dominic Ruffalo

In fact, Ruffalo is among the number who have been infected in the state, having contracted the virus within the last few months.

“Pretty soon, this vaccine is going to take effect, probably within a couple of weeks,” he said. “We got police; we got fire. Who’s going to pay for them to get it? And they’re going to be one of the first ones to get it. I don’t want them to pay for it at all. 

“I think the more people that get the vaccine, the better off the country will be.”

The language of the resolution calls for the state to fund vaccines for residents, provided that the federal government does not.

“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Common Council for the City of Kenosha urges the State Assembly, the State Senate, and the Governor, to investigate, invest, and budget the necessary resources to ensure universal access to quality assured COVID-19 vaccines when they are made available, free of charge to all citizens of Kenosha and residents of the State of Wisconsin provided the federal government does not do so,” the resolution states.

The resolution also instructs the clerk to send copies to Gov. Tony Evers, state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, state Sen. Bob Wirch, state Rep. Tip McGuire, state Rep. Samantha Kerkman, state Rep. Tod Ohnstad, state Sen Van Wanggaard and state Rep. Robin Voss.

‘Could cost thousands of dollars’

“This will make a good statement,” Ruffalo said. “I don’t care who pays for it, the federal government or the state. I just don’t want the citizens of the state of Wisconsin to have to pay for it.”

Ruffalo was particularly concerned about the possible cost of the vaccine, as no concrete number on cost to residents is currently available. 

“So if there is a fee for it, the fee could be thousands of dollars,” he said. “I certainly don’t want somebody to pay $1,000 and then a couple weeks later get another shot for another $1,000.”

“I don’t see that as beneficial for this virus.”

The council unanimously approved the resolution, which will be sent to state officials as soon as possible. 

State officials try to ease distribution path

The Kenosha council’s decision came the same day that Wirch, Ohnstad and McGuire released a joint statement pushing for new legislation to ease the vaccine distribution in and outside of the state.

State Sen. Bob Wirch

According to the release,  the Democratic lawmakers are calling for changes to help Pfizer distribute the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine to other states from its Pleasant Prairie facility.

“It’s come to our attention that a flaw in federal regulations would make it difficult for Pfizer to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine from its storage location in Pleasant Prairie to other, neighboring states,” Wirch said in a released statement. “ This legislation is a clean fix to that problem.  It’s something we should all be able to agree on and get done as quickly as possible,” Wirch said.

“It’s imperative that we take up and act on this legislation,” Ohnstad added. “We can’t let politics get in the way or attach any poison pills. This is a critical step for distribution of the vaccine,” stated Ohnstad.

McGuire stated that lawmakers have a responsibility to residents and neighboring states “to do what we can to allow Pfizer to distribute this life-saving vaccine.”

Reason for proposed changes

The crux of the changes rests on addressing third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Currently, law requires 3PLs to present proof of licensure to each state in which it wishes to operate, according to the release.

However, Wisconsin currently does not have a 3PL license.

Therefore, the state would have to license Pfizer as a 3PL due to the location of its major logistics center in Pleasant Prairie in order to be able to distribute a vaccine from the Pleasant Prairie facility to other states.

The proposed language by the Democratic lawmakers creates that license. 

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...