Advice from health leaders: If you’re eligible for a vaccine, get one before Monday

MADISON, Wis. — If you’re currently eligible under the state’s 1B guidelines, health leaders say you should try to get vaccinated this weekend.

That group includes some public facing essential workers at grocery stores, restaurants, farms, or food banks. Educators and childcare workers, along with utility workers, 911 operators, bus drivers and people 65 and older are also currently eligible.

SSM Health has appointments open this weekend at multiple local clinics.

Mo Kharbat, SSM Health Wisconsin’s Regional VP of Pharmacy Services, suggests calling to set up an appointment now and not waiting until Monday.

“If you call us on Monday we will not turn you down. We will still schedule you. But you could look at waiting 2, 3 weeks,” said Kharbat.

That’s because an estimated 2 million people with medical conditions become eligible on Monday under group 1C.

“Starting Monday, our schedules are really full, already full. We have been bombarded with over 1,000 phone calls every 30 minutes,” said Kharbat.

Kharbat said it’s a simple process to schedule an appointment.

“It’s very easy. All we need to do is they complete an attestation form just attesting that they are who they are, (saying) “I work at a restaurant.” And we’ll take their word for it,” said Kharbat.

While SSM Health is ready to move on to group 1C on Monday, some other vaccinators aren’t.

Public Health Madison & Dane County still has to get through a lot of public facing essential workers in 1B.

“We still have several thousand people here in Dane County that are eligible in tier 1B that we are still trying to make sure they get vaccine,” said Tess Ellens, PHMDC’s immunization coordinator. “We’re working to get through those folks as fast as possible so that we really are able to start opening it up a little bit more.”

Once PHMDC gets through the public facing essential workers, they will move on to vaccinate people in congregate living facilities such as homeless shelters before opening up to people in 1C.

“While we are focusing on prioritizing those that are currently eligible, it probably won’t be a hard stop from one phase to the next,” said Ellens. “I ask that everyone please just be patient. We are going through vaccine as fast as we physically can right now.”

Although some vaccinators thought the Department of Health Service’s decision to move up the eligibility date for people in 1C meant move vaccine was on the way, Kharbat said SSM Health is seeing a 10-15% decrease in doses next week.

That means there will be less appointment slots available.