Wisconsin’s youngest are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but availability is not universal

UW Health will start vaccinating those under 5 starting Tuesday

A girl in her mom's lap gives a high five while sitting in her mom's lap in the car.
Mary Ann Feutz holds her daughter, Zoe Klabunde, as she gets a high-five after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at Fitchburg Family Pharmacy in Fitchburg, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

It’s been more than a week since COVID-19 vaccinations were approved for kids ages 6 months to 5 years old, but some hospitals are still waiting to schedule appointments. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is urging parents to be patient as vaccinators get up to speed on new guidelines.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved for young children by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 18. Some Wisconsin parents and guardians grew frustrated last week as they tried scheduling appointments for their kids.

On Monday, DHS urged patience as vaccinators “take the necessary steps to review all guidelines and receive the vaccines.”

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UW Health COVID-19 vaccine coordinator Andrea Wipperfurth said the health system preordered the vaccines June 9 and received them Monday morning.

“That allowed us to go ahead and open up our schedules,” Wipperfurth told Wisconsin Public Radio. “And we have appointments for this very young age group starting tomorrow.”

Wipperfurth encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated to provide the best protection against COVID-19, even if instances of severe illness are low in young children.

“The vaccine is really an extra layer of support,” Wipperfurth said. “It’s the best we have to offer in terms of protecting our families against serious illness or death, as well as protecting vulnerable populations from the spread.”

The availability of vaccines for the youngest age group authorized by the CDC is not universal in Wisconsin.

A statement from DHS spokesperson Elizabeth Goodsitt emailed to WPR Monday afternoon said 107,700 doses of vaccine have been ordered in Wisconsin and shipments began arriving in the state June 20.

“We have heard nationally that Pfizer is behind in shipments,” Goodsitt said. “Pfizer doses are arriving, but more slowly than had been anticipated.”

Goodsitt said more than 1,000 children in Wisconsin have already been vaccinated.

A webpage for Children’s Hospital regarding COVID-19 prevention for families states the system will “begin offering vaccine appointments for kids in this age range as soon as possible.” The webpage was last updated June 20.

A spokesperson for Mayo Clinic Health System told WPR in a statement that eligible patients have been identified and will be contacted through the system’s online patient services system to schedule appointments.

“Most Mayo Clinic sites will begin offering vaccine doses to all eligible patients in July when supply has been secured through state vaccine ordering systems,” said the statement.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy announced June 18 that children 3 years old and up will be able to get vaccines at “select locations nationwide.”

Walgreens is not offering vaccines for children younger than 3 years old due to federal restrictions under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act and the COVID-19 Prep Act declarations, according to a statement sent to WPR by a company spokesperson.

The COVID-19 PREP Act offers immunity from liability for pharmacists and interns administering COVID-19 vaccines to anyone between the ages of 3-years-old and 18-years-old.

People can visit vaccine.gov or dial 211 to find a free COVID-19 vaccine.