Wisconsin DHS to launch new portal to sign up to get COVID-19 vaccine

NOW: Wisconsin DHS to launch new portal to sign up to get COVID-19 vaccine

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, or DHS, is rolling out a new tool to make it easier for people to sign up to get vaccinated or be placed on a waiting list.

The Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine Registry will provide a central place to let people know where and when they can get vaccinated.

A group of local health departments will begin pilot testing during the week of February 22. Those departments include Central Racine County Health Department, City of Menasha Health Department, City of Wauwatosa Health Department, Green County Public Health, Marathon County Health Department, Oneida County Public Health Department, Public Health Madison and Dane County, Rock County Public Health and St. Croix County Public Health.

Starting March 1, the software from Microsoft will be rolled out in increments to participating health departments. By April 1, DHS expects the vaccine registry will be available to all interested vaccinators in the state, according to a news release.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said people will have to answer a series of questions to determine if they're eligible to get the vaccine.

"if you are eligible, it'll take you to a list of vaccination sites that are near your home and you'll be able to schedule an appointment. If you're not eligible, it will put you on a waiting list for you to be notified at a future date when you would become eligible," Willems Van Dijk said.

DHS said appointments can only be made through this system in communities with vaccinators who are using the vaccine registry. Health care systems, pharmacies and local health departments may already have their own registration and scheduling software.

The vaccine registry can send reminders to make sure people get their second doses and help them monitor for any side effects after they get the vaccine. Applicants without internet access or who need using the vaccine registry will be able to contact a call center to help guide them through the process or schedule an appointment.

During a media briefing on Thursday, Feb. 18, Willems Van Dijk said the state's vaccine supply is growing. Next week, Wisconsin will get $115,000 first doses, which she said is a 64 percent increase from mid-January.

"We appreciate the growth in vaccine. However, it still falls far short of the 350,000 doses that our vaccinators requested this past week," Willems Van Dijk said.

A number of clinics and health departments didn't get the amount of vaccine doses they requested this week. One of them was the Washington-Ozaukee Public Health Department. Interim Health Officer Tyler Weber said he requested 2,000 doses from the state (the maximum) and received 200 doses.

"There's so many people that want the vaccine that deserve the vaccine and can't get it, so we are very sympathetic to the frustration that people are feeling," Weber said.

When the department opened its vaccine sign-up on Monday at 10 a.m., Weber said it was met with "extreme demand."

"At that time, about 8,000 people visited our website, and the registration spots were full within 60 seconds," Weber said.

The department had to temporarily remove the public vaccine registration link, and Weber said it will likely remain closed at least for a few weeks, depending on supply.

At this time, the department is not taking call-in or email requests for vaccine registration.

More groups become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine statewide on March 1st. They include teachers and child care workers; essential workers such as transit, 911 operators and utility workers; and people who live in congregate settings like inmates.

Weber said having more eligible groups will be difficult because his county still has to get through people over 65.

"it's going to create more confusion and more challenges because it's going to strain an already strained system that we're working through," he said.

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