Beginning next Monday, Wisconsinites sixteen and older can register to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It won’t happen all at once, but I know I’m not alone in feeling the hope, excitement and relief that we all have anxiously awaited for this year,” Governor Tony Evers told reporters earlier today.
The announcement speeds up the deadline for general vaccine eligibility, originally slated for May 1st. That’s the day President Joe Biden says all Americans should be eligible for the vaccine.
Wisconsin now joins a growing list of states opening vaccine eligibility before May 1st.
But, while vaccine eligibility will be open to all adults next week, it could still take months to get every Wisconsinite processed and fully immunized. That means residents will still have to follow public health guidelines for the foreseeable future.
“So folks, don’t give up now,” Evers said. “Don’t let the COVID-19 fatigue get the best of you when we are this close to the finish line.”
Federal health agencies have yet to approve any vaccines for children below 16, hence why they’re excluded from the immunization effort. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16 and 17 year olds.
Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk says that the stability of the state’s vaccine supply was a major factor in the eligibility expansion.
“First of all, the federal government has been able to give us more and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine will be coming into the state for longer and longer periods of time…and so with more vaccine coming into the state, we want to be sure there are more people eligible to receive the vaccine,” she said.
Monday’s expansion will come just two weeks after the last phase of eligible Wisconsinites opened up. That phase, which the DHS says covered roughly two million people, included residents with a wide range of underlying health conditions.
Van Dijk says that public health officials have made significant strides in vaccinating previous eligibility groups. According to the DHS, more than seventeen percent of the state’s population has been fully immunized and nearly a third of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Van Dijk says that, with most of the at-risk communities already accounted for, it makes logistical sense to throw open the doors for basically everyone next.
“This decision to move ahead with everybody really simplifies the whole scenario for our vaccinators, for our public, no more having to sort out if you’re in or if you’re out,” she told reporters. “It’s time to just move forward and get everybody with a shot in their arm.”
According to the Governor’s office, vaccine providers will prioritize clearing through those prior eligibility groups before immunizing members of the general public.
The planned expansion comes as Wisconsin continues to rope in new partners, both public and private, into the vaccine distribution effort. The DHS also announced earlier today that several additional pharmacy chains will begin distributing vaccines.
That includes, among others, Costco, Topco, CVS and Hy-Vee Medicine Shop.