by Greg Aune
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) today further expanded Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. This means the following groups are now eligible (in order of priority):
Although these groups are now eligible, DHS is advising vaccine providers to prioritize previously eligible groups over new groups that become eligible, with a particular emphasis on people age 65 and older. As of last week, about 47 percent of seniors in the state were reported to have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
With the limited supply of vaccine available nationwide, DHS recommends that educators and childcare workers be prioritized for vaccination among the newly-eligible group. It will be dedicating specific vaccine allocations for use with this group and has directed local health departments to manage the associated intake and coordination with vaccinations beginning by March 15.
School districts and childcare employers are encouraged to indicate their vaccination needs through their local and tribal health departments as capacity will vary by county. Some health departments may offer vaccinations directly, while others will continue to coordinate with health systems like Aspirus to provide access to the vaccine.
It is anticipated that vaccinations for the other new groups in Phase 1B may not begin until April or May.
Aspirus is scheduling those who are eligible as closely as possible to the order in which requests are received. This can vary based on vaccine supply, eligibility phase, and location. Updates are being provided to those who remain on Aspirus’ call back list through the MyAspirus patient portal and email.
“We assess the vaccine supply we receive each week to determine how many appointments we can make available for the following week,” said Jeff Wicklander, Aspirus Wausau Hospital President. “If supply improves, Aspirus is ready and has the capacity to ramp up vaccinations dramatically.”
To date, Aspirus has provided more than 13,000 first-dose vaccinations to eligible community members with about 4,000 individuals having completed the series. Aspirus has also provided vaccinations to more than 5,700 health care workers, EMS, first responders, fire, and police personnel.
Aspirus schedulers are contacting those who are eligible when appointments become available. Those who have submitted a vaccine request are asked to avoid calling Aspirus for vaccination status updates. This helps reserve staffed phone lines for outreach scheduling and for patients calling who are experiencing active symptoms or have care needs.
The latest vaccine information will continue to be updated online at aspirus.org/vaccine.
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.