With more than half of the state’s population now able to receive a vaccine, UW Health will no longer reach out to patients but will ask them to schedule appointments online. Patients will attest to their eligibility.
UW Health now asking patients to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations
As more than 2 million Wisconsin residents with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 became eligible for vaccination Monday, health care providers started changing some immunization procedures — including UW Health moving to a self-scheduling model.
People with about 20 medical conditions that put them at increased risk of complications from COVID-19, including cancer, diabetes, moderate to severe asthma and being overweight or obese, became eligible Monday, according to the state Department of Health Services. That group is believed to include more than 2 million of the state’s 5.8 million residents, on top of many others previously eligible.
The supply of vaccine UW Health has received from the state is a small fraction of what the health system needs to reach its patients in the community, said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.
“We are optimistic that the supply of vaccine will eventually increase, and our new scheduling format will allow us to be ready when it comes,” Pothof said in a statement.
If appointments are not immediately available at UW Health due to limited supply, UW Health encourages patients to seek a vaccine from any provider they can, including pharmacies, local health departments and clinics run by state or federal officials.
“As people with certain medical conditions begin signing up for vaccination appointments, we ask for everyone’s continued patience,” Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee of the state health department, said in a statement. “Some places may have waitlists, but eventually everyone will be able to get protected against the virus.”
The state has a list and map of vaccinators available online. A registry for appointments and a waiting list is also available. A hotline for questions about vaccines and assistance with registration is at 844-684-1064.
SSM Health, UnityPoint Health-Meriter, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin and Madison’s Veterans Hospital have vaccination information for their patients on their websites.
SSM Health later this week plans to send email invitations to patients who have not been vaccinated, through which they can schedule their appointment directly online, spokesperson Lisa Adams said. In addition to offering multiple vaccine clinic sites across Wisconsin, SSM Health is starting to work with employer groups to schedule on-site mobile vaccine clinics for eligible workers, Adams said.
Meriter continues to contact patients to set up COVID-19 vaccinations, prioritizing primary care patients who are part of vulnerable populations based on race and ethnicity, as well as patients with multiple comorbidities or high-risk factors, spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse said.
As vaccines become more readily available, “we may consider a more open scheduling model,” Huibregtse said.
The full list of medical conditions for which eligibility began Monday also includes: cerebrovascular diseases, which affect blood vessels and blood supply to the brain; chronic kidney disease; COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cystic fibrosis; Down syndrome; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathies; hypertension, or high blood pressure; and immunocompromised state — a weakened immune system — from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV or use of corticosteroids or other immune-weakening medicines.
Other conditions included are: liver disease; neurologic conditions, such as dementia; pregnancy; pulmonary fibrosis, or having damaged or scarred lung tissues; sickle cell disease; and thalassemia, a blood disorder.
As of Monday, 25.3% of the state’s population and 30.9% of people in Dane County have had at least one dose, and 14.8% statewide and 18.9% in the county are fully immunized. About 20% of the population is under age 16, a group for whom no vaccine has been authorized.
The state’s daily average of COVID-19 cases has been about 400 the past two weeks. As of late last week, 55 cases of the B117 variant first identified in England had been reported in Wisconsin, along with one case of the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa.