WISCONSIN - On Thursday, March 11 the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that people with various medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The period of eligibility will begin March 22 and include individuals age 16 and over with the following medical conditions:
•Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
•Chronic kidney disease
•Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
•Hypertension or high blood pressure
•Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
•Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
•Obesity (body mass index with a BMI of 30-39 kg/m2)
• Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2)
•Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more)
•Sickle cell disease
•Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
Grant County Department of Health Head Jeff Kindrai shared the local strategy Monday afternoon.
“We are still awaiting guidance from the state on what kind of verification measures individuals will need,” Kindrai shared. “People need to remember to be patient, because at least as of right now, we aren’t getting in as much vaccine as we have demand. We anticipate in April an increase in available vaccines to be able to start vaccinating some of the newly eligible groups.’
Kindrai noted that the county is still currently focusing on vaccinating community educators and registered child care providers. However, they plan to next week begin opening up their scope and providing more vaccine access to other public facing essential workers.
The issue of potentially wasted vaccines was also addressed by Kindrai.
On some social media platforms individuals have reached out with the question of “What happens to the extra doses? Are they simply thrown away if they’re expired?’
Kindrai shared that, at least at Grant County Health, no vaccine is going to waste.
“I can speak to what we do here, and we keep a small list of individuals who may have gotten missed or changed their minds from when they first became eligible and now want to get vaccinated,” Kindrai explained. “And if we can not find anyone from that list, we reach out to our contacts at the hospitals and clinics. And if we are not able to find anyone in either of those places we can reach out to the public, with direction from the state, and if we’re in crunch time and talking about minutes from the vaccine being wasted, we would find someone and get it in an arm.” Kindrai added that the percentage of vaccines this is happening with is very small numbers of doses. And that the county has not had any losses so far.
‘We have not had any wastage, we’ve always found an arm to get it into,’ Kindrai noted.
Additionally, The DHS reported that through the end of February that there were 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered and 2,349 were wasted or spoiled, equaling a spoilage rate of 0.16 percent.
Currently, in Grant County supply is not keeping up with demand, also leading to the lack of waste.
‘Last time we ordered 2,500 vaccines and were only able to get 200 doses,’ Kindrai shared. ‘So we are still asking that people be patient, wear their mask and continue to socially distance and wash their hands.’
As with any vaccine, there has been the potential of side effects with the three approved COVID-19 vaccines on the market.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common side effects include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea. Additionally individuals may experience pain, redness and swelling at the site of the shot.
Kindrai shared that from what the Health Department that area folks have been experiencing much of the same.
“We haven’t heard anything out of the expected,’ Kindrai shared. ‘For some people the symptoms can last up to a couple days, they might have a sore arm or feel a little fatigued.’
The county has received only the Moderna vaccine up to this point directly from their supplier. However they did get a shipment transferred from one of their vaccine partners of the Pfizer vaccine as well which they used for educators. Kindrai shared that they have ordered and are attempting to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as it has been requested as well.
“We have some people who want to take the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine mostly for it being a single dose, because they may have mobility issues for getting to the location for the second dose or a fear of needles,’ Kindrai explained. ‘So we are going to continue to try and get that.
The feelings of relief that were felt when the vaccine roll out began were also noted to be just as strong and celebrated locally as they were nationwide.
“It was quite a relief,” Kindrai said with a light tone to his voice. “Given the limits on how much has been available it’s gone well, and much faster than expected. Initially we thought we’d be looking at the fall before it would be widely available, and now they’re telling us maybe May.’
The CDC reminds individuals that time is also a factor with the vaccine.
“It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccine,” The CDC website explains. “People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. You should keep using all the tools available to protect yourself and others until you are fully vaccinated.
Currently, Wisconsin is touted as among the nation’s leaders in distributing vaccines to those who want them.
As of this Monday, March 15 it was reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Wisconsin has surpassed the two million mark for vaccine doses administered. This included the approximately 119,725 doses that were administered over the weekend.
Another milestone that the state hit this past Monday was reporting no new COVID-19 deaths.
A total of 569,932 people have ever been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Wisconsin since the first reported case on Feb. 5 2020. At the time of reporting 557,214 were considered recovered (97.8 percent) with 6,023 being active cases diagnosed within the last 30 days and haven’t been medically cleared.
The state has launched a toll-free hotline to answer questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines. By calling 1-844-684-1064 callers can get help finding a vaccinator and get assistance with registering for an appointment. The hot line is intended for people without internet access.
The CDC also recently announced that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated individuals indoors without wearing a mask or socially distancing. They recommend that vaccinated individuals can also come in contact with people considered at low risk for severe COVID-19 reactions, such as grandparents meeting healthy grandchildren.However the CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated people still wear well fitted masks, avoid large gatherings and remain physically distanced from others while out in public. Additionally they are advised to get tested if they develop symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.