Wisconsin to launch new vaccine registry; 9 health departments to begin testing system next week

NOW: Wisconsin to launch new vaccine registry; 9 health departments to begin testing system next week

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Nine health departments across the state will begin testing a new vaccine registry during the week of Feb. 22. Three of them are in southeast Wisconsin: Central Racine County, City of Wauwatosa and Waukesha County.

The Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine Registry will ask questions to determine if people are eligible for the vaccine. If they are, they can sign up for an appointment. If they aren't, they will be placed on a waiting list.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will launch the new registry on March 1. By April 1, DHS expects the vaccine registry will be available to all interested vaccinators in the state.

Laura Stephens, interim health officer for the Wauwatosa Health Department, said for weeks, her department has used several systems to schedule vaccine appointments.

"We've been using SignUpGenius, SurveyMonkey, a Squarespace site -- all of them to try to pull it all together," Stephens said.

Wauwatosa is one of the nine departments that will pilot test the new statewide vaccine registry.

"There may still be multiple places where people can sign up, but hopefully this will streamline and put more vaccinators in one place," Stephens said.

Sam Wilson, state director of AARP Wisconsin, said the registry is exciting news.

"Hopefully, will be our best tool yet to make sure people get connected to vaccinators in their community," Wilson said.

He said the biggest frustration among people 65 and older thus far has been how to get an appointment.

Wisconsin is one of several states to use software from Microsoft. Some other states have had issues with it.

"We certainly have seen in other states just mass rushes once the portals go live," Wilson said.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the pilot testing is to "make sure it's working the way we want it to." She said they're hoping to work out any glitches.

"No software is foolproof, but the key to it is having adequate resources to address this and also -- when you're working with a vendor -- adequate metrics to assure their commitment to fixing glitches as well, too, which we've worked into the contract that we've negotiated with Microsoft," she said.

Wilson said once the new system is up and running, patience will be key.

"People are really hungry for the information, but a lot of systems aren't ready to manage all of that traffic again so if you don't succeed at first, certainly don't give up," Wilson said.

People without internet access or who need help using the vaccine registry will be able to contact a call center to help guide them through the process or schedule an appointment, according to DHS.

The following departments will begin pilot testing the vaccine registry in their communities during the week of Feb. 22:

Central Racine County 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 (DHS community vaccination site in Rock County)
St. Croix County Public Health
Waukesha County Public Health

(Click on each department to determine if they are accepting vaccine registrations for scheduling appointments.)

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