Evers Announces People 16 And Older Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine Starting Next Week

In Tweet, Evers Says Expanding Eligibility Is A 'Major Milestone' In Pandemic

A yellow curtain hangs behind a woman about to receive a vaccine as she speaks to a student nurse about side effects
Connie Hornickel of Whitewater receives educational information before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, at Jefferson County Fair Park. Angela Major/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that people ages 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine across Wisconsin starting April 5.

Previously, the state Department of Health Services (DHS) expected the general public ages 16 and up to be eligible May 1.

Evers announced the news in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

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“Wisconsin leads the nation in getting available shots in arms, and today we’re announcing everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive a #COVID19 vaccine starting next week,” Evers wrote.

While everyone in the broader group will be eligible starting next week, vaccine providers will be able to prioritize previously eligible populations such as essential workers and those with pre-existing conditions.

There are many ways to book an appointment to get vaccinated including through DHS, federal, and local community-based vaccination clinics, pharmacies, health care providers, local and tribal health departments and employers. Residents can also sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine Registry, although not all providers are using the state’s online sign-up. DHS has a vaccine hotline — offered in Hindi, Hmong, Somali and Spanish — at 1-844-684-1064.

“Every community is different, some providers may have openings and others may have waitlists but I assure you that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one in the coming weeks,” said DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake.

According to DHS data on vaccinations, just more than 28 percent of white residents have received one dose of vaccine while American Indian, Asian, Black and Hispanic populations have yet to hit 20 percent combined. During a media briefing on Tuesday, DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk was asked what is being done to improve vaccination rates among these groups, in particular, Hmong residents in central Wisconsin. She said DHS is setting up a community vaccination site in Wausau next week, which will allow the Marathon County health department to target specific populations.

“And it’s another reason we wanted to make the vaccine available to everyone,” said Willems Van Dijk. “Because another barrier I’ve heard for many populations, especially those with limited English, is just trying to sort out who’s in and who’s out. And we thought, let’s remove that barrier now that we’re at a point of more steady vaccine supply and just let the message be, you are all welcome to come get vaccine.”

Evers said expanding vaccine eligibility is a “major milestone” in overcoming the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, 2,753,146 vaccine doses have been administered in Wisconsin, and 1,013,613 Wisconsinites — or 17.4 percent of the population — have completed their vaccination series.

Despite more Wisconsin residents getting vaccinated, DHS says it’s crucial for people to follow public health guidelines like wearing a mask, staying physically distant, washing hands and getting tested.