DHS moves up COVID-19 vaccination timeline for people with certain medical conditions

MADISON, Wis. –The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is moving up its timeline for allowing people with certain medical conditions to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting on March 22, individuals age 16 or older who have one of the listed medical conditions will qualify for a vaccine.

The list includes 20 conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart conditions, obesity, liver disease, Type 1 and 2 diabetes and pregnancy. The full list of conditions can be found at the bottom of this article.

The conditions are associated with an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The group, known as 1C, includes an estimated 2 million individuals or more, and officials warn there may need to be prioritization within the group based on severity of conditions, age, the number of conditions an individual has, and whether they live in a community that’s been disproportionately impacted by the virus.

Previously, the state announced it would begin vaccinating this group on March 29. This will be the last eligibility group before the vaccine becomes open to the general population on May 1.

“Our vaccinators across the state are doing great work to get folks vaccinated and get this done, and because of their good work, Wisconsin continues to be a national leader in getting shots in arms,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. “Moving up eligibility for this critical group will help us get over the finish line and sooner, and get us back to our Wisconsin way of life.”

Vaccinators found out about DHS’s decision to change the eligibility date at the same time the public did on Tuesday.

“It sends a message that perhaps they think the vaccine allocations and supplies will improve significantly over the next few weeks,” said Mo Kharbat, SSM Health Wisconsin’s VP of Pharmacy Services.

Vaccinators don’t know yet how much their vaccine allocations will increase for next week. Even with a big increase in supply, the demand with 2 million people eligible at once will still be much higher.

“It is great to be eligible, but eligible does not mean it’s going to be immediately available,” said Dr. Matt Anderson at UW Health. “Continue checking back with the vaccinators, the people you’ve signed up with or are in proximity to you. And just be patient knowing that it may take several weeks or so to be able to have that appointment.”

UW Health and SSM Health are confident they will be able to have some appointments open for newly eligible patients next week, but Public Health Madison & Dane County still has several thousand people in 1B they need to vaccinate.

“Given we are still in the thick of the currently eligible group, we do not yet have solidified plans for vaccinating people with medical conditions who become eligible on March 22. We encourage those folks to check their provider’s website, a participating local pharmacy, or a statewide mass vaccination clinic to try and book an appointment once they are eligible,” said Christy Vogt at PHMDC.

If you are a UW Health patient, you will need to fill out an online interest form to let the health system know you qualify under one of the medical conditions. An updated form will be available in the next couple days. That will give you the ability to schedule an appointment in a two week window.

If no appointments are available, you’re encouraged to keep checking.

SSM Health hasn’t nailed down yet how they will prioritize all of the people who become eligible in 1C.

“We will likely prioritize only based on age,” said Kharbat. “I don’t think we should be in a position to tell which health condition poses a greater risk for COVID than another condition,”

He said people eligible in 1B will still be the priority.

“My message to 1B employers out there is, ‘Get your employees vaccinated before the 22nd if you can because after that you will be competing with 2 million people in Wisconsin,'” said Kharbat.

Even if you are not a SSM Health patient, you can schedule an appointment by calling them.

As vaccine allocation increases, SSM Health plans to move from giving 10,000 shots per week to 20,000.

Complete list of conditions:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cancer
  • 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)
  • Pregnancy
  • 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)

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.