According to the state’s Department of Health Services, more than 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered here in Wisconsin. Just under 16% of Wisconsinites, or about 920,000 people, have received all doses of the vaccine.
The state continues to track a steady increase in the daily number of doses administered — as eligibility continues to expand and more distributors, both public and private, are pulled into the effort.
But, even as more and more residents are receiving their vaccines, some are still left in the lurch. Navigating the state’s vaccine registration process and what qualifies someone can be a dizzying process, so let’s break it down.
Since late January all residents 65 and older have been eligible for the vaccine. Frontline essential workers and healthcare workers have also been eligible for a number of weeks.
And on Monday, the state opened up eligibility for adult residents with a wide range of underlying health conditions. According to the DHS, that move extends vaccine eligibility to more than two million Wisconsinites.
Those underlying health conditions include asthma, cancer, heart conditions, high blood pressure and pregnancy — among a variety of other categories, more of which you can find online at the DHS’ website.
But, let’s focus on one specific underlying condition: those who are considered ‘overweight’ based on Body Mass Index, or BMI. Anyone with a BMI over 25 is considered overweight.
There has been ample reporting on the flaws of BMI as a health metric, notably that it makes no distinction between body fat and muscle weight. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three quarters of adult Americans are considered overweight based on BMI.
That means there’s a good likelihood that you are ‘overweight’ and, therefore, eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
So, let’s say you are qualified and now want to register for a vaccine. The state currently administers hundreds of distributors across the state. Some of those are not open to the public, and are only for specific groups.
Each of those sites also manage their own schedule and appointments, so you’ll want to book through a specific provider. You can find a full map of providers below.
In some cases, mostly for healthcare personnel, vaccines can also be distributed directly through your employer.
Uninsured residents are also eligible for the vaccines — but there are some things to be aware of.
According to the DHS, if you get the vaccine from a community clinic, the local health department or a pharmacy — not having coverage won’t be an issue and the dose will be free. But, if you go to a doctor’s office to get the vaccine, you may have some additional costs associated with that trip.
Even if you are fully immunized, Julie Willems Van Dijk, the DHS’ Deputy Secretary, says to hold off on vacations for the foreseeable future.
“We would caution travel, because we don’t want to bring variants into Wisconsin that could spread to other folks when you come back,” she says.
The DHS is shooting to have everyone sixteen and older eligible to register by May first. That’s the same date the Biden administration has set to make every adult in the US eligible for a vaccination.
Says Van Dijk: “We also want to watch where we’re heading with vaccine supply. The federal government has promised that vaccine supply is increasing — that’s why President Biden indicated May first would be the day we’d have adequate supply to move into everyone being eligible.”
Meanwhile, a growing list of states are planning to make vaccines eligible to all adults before May. The New York Times reports that at least thirty states plan to start universal eligibility in March or April.
And finally, if you have an opportunity to get vaccinated, take it. Doctor Stephanie Schauer, Manager of the DHS’ Immunization Program, says shopping around for a specific vaccine — either Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson — isn’t worth it.
“I think the bottom line is that all three vaccines authorized for use are shown to be safe and effective,” Schauer says.“I think you’d do more damage trying to shop around rather than just availing yourself of the ones that are available. It’s really important that we not expand the amount of time we’re unprotected.”
If you have any lingering questions about how to register for a vaccine, whether or not you’re eligible or where to get vaccinated — the DHS has a toll-free phone number you can call at 844-684-1064. That line offers Spanish, Hmong, Chinese Mandarin, Hindi, and Somali language assistance.