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Wisconsin Expands Vaccine Eligibility

   As of Mon. Apr. 5, 2021, the age range of those eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in the state of Wisconsin was broadened to those aged 16 and up. Previously, vaccinations were not set to be available to this age group until a month later, on May 5. This expedited eligibility comes as a way to quickly combat new variants of the virus that have recently reached Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in a recent article. 

   It is advised by the director of medical services at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, Dr. Ben Weston, that those who were previously eligible for vaccination and have not yet gotten one, should hurry to become vaccinated. Now that more adults are eligible, competition will arise in terms of scheduling. Karen Timberlake, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) wanted all Wisconsinites to know that, “It will take patience, but we encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

While vaccine eligibility has been expanded to those age 16 and above, there is only one vaccine available to teenagers. Only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for administration among those ages 16 and 17. Furthermore, neither of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for those under the age of 16. There are currently seven pharmacy chains in the state that are offering vaccinations; one must schedule an appointment ahead of time. Walgreens has been vaccinating people for some time now (many Beloit students have received vaccines there in the past couple of weeks). Additionally, Costco, Hy-Vee, and CVS pharmacies will be taking vaccine appointments, as well asfour independent pharmacy networks across the state.   

   Karen Timberlake of the DHS told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, “We urge everyone currently eligible to visit the DHS website to learn about how to schedule an appointment. And please remember that whether you are insured or not, the vaccine is free to everyone.” Furthermore, vaccination appointments may be scheduled via the DHS website through this link: Chain pharmacies also allow appointments to be scheduled through their own websites, or by phone to specific locations. 

In cities like Milwaukee, a number of locations are hosting walk-in vaccination clinics. Hyatt Pharmacy and Life Tree Pharmacy are among two Milwaukee-based pharmacies to offer walk-ins. The Muslim Community Center based in Milwaukee and locally renowned barber shop, Gee’s Clippers (in conjunction with Hyatt Pharmacy) has been hosting their share of walk-in clinics. These walk-in clinics in Milwaukee come as a result of the broadening of vaccine eligibility to those as young as 16 in particular zip codes. Milwaukee has been vaccinating 16 and 17 year olds who reside in 18 zip codes wherein the COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted people of color. This has been in effect for just about two and a half weeks. 

Similarly, as of April 1, the city of Beloit began applying its $100,000 COVID relief grant to host pop-up vaccine clinics in the Merril and Hackett neighborhoods. These two neighborhoods have been the focus of these clinics because they consist of individuals with limited access to medical care and who are statistically ‘underserved’ by the healthcare system. According to the Beloit Daily News, the City of Beloit is also expected to employ its transit system to give free rides to those without access to a vaccination clinic. Another important thing to note is that at the vaccination clinics throughout the city, there will be workers and volunteers on hand to serve as translators and bilingual communicators.

When the decision to expedite the vaccination eligibility of those 16 and up was made, COVID-19 cases had begun to rise in Wisconsin. At the time of the decision on March 31, the seven-day average had risen from 387 to 501 in a mere week, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary of the DHS. On the upside, at the same time, nearly one million people in Wisconsin were fully vaccinated, with 1.7 million people having received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.


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