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State To Launch Online Vaccine Appointment Portal In February

Microsoft-Contracted Site Will Notify Wisconsinites Of Their Eligibility, Allow For Online Scheduling

Pharmacist Brian Kiefer draws saline while preparing a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at UC Davis Health on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. Noah Berger/AP Photo

Beginning next month, Wisconsinites will be able to sign up online for vaccination appointments.

The state is contracting with Microsoft to create the new online signup system. In a Friday call with reporters, state Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said it will launch in 10 Wisconsin communities beginning Feb. 15.

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The state plans to use that first week to work out any problems with the software before launching it statewide.

The interface will be similar to the state’s COVID Connect website, which was used to speed the process of testing for COVID-19 across the state. Users will answer questions about their age and profession to determine their eligibility for the vaccine. The site will include information on vaccination clinics around the state, and users can register for an appointment.

“If you’re not eligible yet, the system will put you on a waiting list,” Willems Van Dijk said. “You’ll be notified when you are eligible and you can go back into the system and schedule your appointment.”

Wisconsin’s efforts to vaccinate health care workers began in late 2020. The state is also vaccinating first responders, police and fire personnel and corrections workers, and the largest currently eligible group: adults over 65. Eligibility is tentatively slated to expand to many essential workers beginning March 1.

Willems Van Dijk said the state has the infrastructure and capacity to ramp up the administration of vaccines. What it doesn’t have is the supply. That means in the near term, for many, appointments scheduled through the new site will likely come with long wait times.

“Right now, we just don’t have enough vaccine,” she said. “And so many of (the vaccination sites) will be working much fewer days or shorter hours than they may be able to work, because the vaccine supply is limited.”

According to an NPR state vaccination tracker, as of Friday, Wisconsin has vaccinated 5.2 percent of its population and has used 46 percent of its allotted doses. But Willems Van Dijk cautioned that national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is used by many tracking sites set up by news media, lags behind Wisconsin’s actual vaccination totals. Wisconsin has administered 476,855 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, according to the Department of Health Services. Of those, 91,058 were second doses, meaning those people are fully vaccinated against the disease.

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