Individuals 16+ with certain medical conditions eligible for COVID-19 vaccine March 22
Originally slated for March 29; DHS anticipates general public eligibility in May
For the Tomahawk Leader
WISCONSIN – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday, March 16 announced that individuals age 16 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, March 22. The eligibility date was moved up one week from March 29 due to “availability of appointments and increased vaccine supply,” according to a release from Evers’s office.
DHS anticipates that the general public will be eligible for the vaccine sometime in May.
“This eligibility group includes individuals with medical conditions associated with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” DHS stated in a release.
The next eligibility group includes individuals age 16 and over with the following medical conditions:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Liver disease
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39 kg/m2)
- Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
The decision to expand eligibility to include individuals with certain medical conditions aligns with recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was informed by work by the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee and guidance from medical experts in DHS, according to the release.
“The CDC’s recommendations reflect the best available evidence on conditions that are known to make individuals more vulnerable to severe complications due to COVID-19,” DHS said.
Due to the limited supply of vaccine and with this next eligible group likely adding more than two million individuals in Wisconsin eligible for the vaccine, DHS said providers may “need to prioritize individuals within this population who are at higher risk.”
“These include individuals with severe medical conditions, those with two or more conditions, older adults, or those living in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” DHS stated. “Every community is different, but everyone in this group will be eligible for the vaccine.”
Depending on vaccine supply, DHS anticipates that Wisconsin will be able to expand eligibility sometime in May to include all individuals age 16 and older. DHS said it will continue to monitor vaccination coverage statewide and partner with vaccine providers in order to provide an updated vaccination timeline for the general public.
“Individuals with the outlined medical conditions can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, local and tribal health departments, and pharmacies,” DHS stated. “Wisconsinites with a primary care provider may hear directly from their provider. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page (www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-get.htm) or call the toll free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more.”
DHS said that, in the meantime, “it is important to double-down on ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 due to emerging strains of the virus.”
“Masking up, staying physically distant, washing hands, and getting tested continue to be crucial tools for protecting ourselves and our communities against COVID-19,” DHS noted. “Individuals who are fully vaccinated can review recently released post-vaccination guidance (www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-after.htm) on the DHS website.”
“Wisconsin continues to be a national leader in vaccinations and we are excited to open up eligibility to more Wisconsinites,” said Governor Tony Evers. “I know this past year has been rough for everyone and I want to thank folks for stepping up and doing their part to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19. We urge those eligible and at highest risk to get vaccinated because each shot in arms means we are one step closer to getting back to our Wisconsin way of life.”
“All three COVID-19 vaccines available are incredibly safe and effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and death,” DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake stated. “These vaccines are saving lives. That is why we are committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get protected against the virus. We are continuing to accelerate our pace, getting more shots in arms each week. Together with our vaccinator partners across the state, we are helping those at higher risk of exposure or more vulnerable to severe infection get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
For information, resources, and data related to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit DHS’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage (www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine.htm).