The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that individuals age 16 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 29. This eligibility group includes individuals with medical conditions associated with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the recent and anticipated increases in vaccine availability, DHS anticipates the general public will be eligible for the vaccine sometime in May.
“Wisconsin continues to be a national leader in vaccinations and we are excited to open up eligibility to more Wisconsinites,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “I know this past year has been rough for everyone and I want to thank folks for stepping up and doing their part to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19. We urge those eligible and at highest risk to get vaccinated because each shot in arms means we are one step closer to getting back to our Wisconsin way of life.”
The decision to expand eligibility to include individuals with certain medical conditions aligns with recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was informed by work by the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee and guidance from medical experts in DHS. The CDC’s recommendations reflect the best available evidence on conditions that are known to make individuals more vulnerable to severe complications due to COVID-19.
The next eligibility group includes individuals age 16 and over with the following medical conditions:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Liver disease
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39 kg/m2)
- Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
Due to the limited supply of vaccine and with this next eligible group likely adding more than 2 million individuals in Wisconsin eligible for the vaccine, providers may need to prioritize individuals within this population who are at higher risk. These include individuals with severe medical conditions, those with two or more conditions, older adults, or those living in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Every community is different, but everyone in this group will be eligible for the vaccine.
“All three COVID-19 vaccines available are incredibly safe and effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and death. These vaccines are saving lives. That is why we are committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get protected against the virus,” said DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake. “We are continuing to accelerate our pace, getting more shots in arms each week. Together with our vaccinator partners across the state, we are helping those at higher risk of exposure or more vulnerable to severe infection get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Depending on vaccine supply, DHS anticipates that Wisconsin will be able to expand eligibility sometime in May to include all individuals age 16 and older. DHS will continue to monitor vaccination coverage statewide and partner with vaccine providers in order to provide an updated vaccination timeline for the general public.
Individuals with the outlined medical conditions can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, Local and Tribal Health Departments, and pharmacies. Wisconsinites with a primary care provider may hear directly from their provider. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page or call the toll free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more.
In the meantime, it is important to double-down on ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 due to emerging strains of the virus. Masking up, staying physically distant, washing hands, and getting tested continue to be crucial tools for protecting ourselves and our communities against COVID-19. Individuals who are fully vaccinated can review recently released post-vaccination guidance on the DHS website.