Officials advise eligible people to schedule vaccines now before eligibility widens April 5

NOW: Officials advise eligible people to schedule vaccines now before eligibility widens April 5

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Even with the Wisconsin Center soon transitioning to 3,000 vaccinations a day, area health officials say it will be a race to get vaccines once eligibility opens up to everyone 16 and older on Monday, April 5.

The Milwaukee Health Department says this weekend appointment sign-ups will be opened up for the Wisconsin Center to anyone in the state 16 and older. Officials say if you’re eligible now, get your vaccine scheduled as soon as possible.

“Starting Monday for at least the foreseeable future, there will be much more competition to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Ben Weston, an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who also serves as medical director for Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“Anybody who’s eligible should start the effort to getting an appointment,” said Ajay Sethi, who has a doctoral degree and serves as an associate professor for the Population Health Sciences Dept. at UW-Madison School of Medicine.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says nearly 25-percent of people 65 and older still haven’t gotten their first dose. For Milwaukee County, that number is in the tens of thousands.

“There’s 40,000 individuals aged 65 or older in Milwaukee County that have not yet received a dose,” adds Dr. Weston.

“By opening up the eligibility criteria, there’s even a bigger pool of people demanding vaccines, the supplies are obviously not enough,” Sethi says.

On March 22, the state opened up eligibility to more than 2 million Wisconsinites with comorbidities. Area officials say city and county sites are opening up new next-day appointments every single day.

“We are planning to have additional appointments available starting on Monday, and we feel confident that we’ll be able to address this,” said Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee health commissioner.

The Wisconsin Center received at least 7,000 weekly doses when FEMA initially stepped in on March 15. Sethi applauds the upcoming federal vaccination expansion of 3,000 doses a day. He believes in many cases around the state, prioritization may still continue, even with eligibility widening on April 5.

“Including people who are over 65 years of age, you know they’re going to get more priority because they were earlier on the priority list,” Sethi said.

“We’re certainly enthusiastic about opening up eligibility and getting more of our community vaccinated,” Dr. Weston says. “We want to continue to prioritize those most at risk and most vulnerable.”

While there are many places to get an appointment in the state, Sethi says be patient and prepared to wait a few weeks or even months once Monday rolls around. He says some may even have to make a drive to other parts of the state if they want to get theirs earlier.

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