Wisconsin is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to include more people. Older adults will soon be eligible, but officials urge patience as shipments still are hard to come by.
The Department of Health Services announced this week that Wisconsin residents age 65 and older will be eligible for the vaccine through their health-care provider, pharmacy or local tribal health agency beginning next Monday. The move follows initial efforts to vaccinate front-line health-care workers and nursing-home residents.
Lisa Lamkins, federal issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, said they'd hoped the next phase would cover people 50 and older, but added that this is a positive development.
"I think Wisconsin is taking a really good next step in recognizing that older people are more at risk, and therefore prioritizing those folks," she said.
She said she understands there may be some frustration about seeing more vaccination activity in other states, but noted that Wisconsin is strictly following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The state has warned that 700,000 residents are part of this new group, while Wisconsin only is getting 70,000 new doses each week - so it will take time to reach everyone.
Lamkins said that's why it's important for people who are newly eligible to stay in contact with their provider or local health department as the state establishes an online registration system. She said staying in the loop helps eliminate confusion. Meanwhile, AARP has said it hopes another group of older residents gets attention: "The group of people who receive care at home.
"They would otherwise be in a nursing home, so they could be part of this nursing-home group," she said, "but they're actually in some special programs that let them get those services in their homes."
She said they'll keep pressing the vaccine steering committee to prioritize this group. AARP said it also wants the state to collect data on the race and ethnicity of vaccine recipients, knowing that certain racial groups have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Gov. Tony Evers recently announced that Wisconsin will have nine mobile vaccine units to address any access gaps.