Milwaukee Experts Discuss 'Vaccine Concierge' & Other Ways To Help Employees Receive COVID-19 Shots
More workplaces may be offering COVID-19 vaccinations soon, as eligibility expands to additional groups of people in Wisconsin.
State officials are taking requests to supply vaccine to employers that want to open on-site vaccination clinics. Others are urging managers to help workers by choosing someone to be a "vaccine concierge."
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) says 22% of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 13% have completed the vaccine series. The numbers are growing, but still well short of the roughly 80% health officials are seeking.
Next Monday, people age 16 and up with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the vaccine. More groups will be eligible in April.
While some businesses will leave it to their workers to get vaccinated elsewhere, other firms are looking at on-site vaccinations. DHS official Greg Engle is in charge of vaccine distribution logistics.
Engle told the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) Wednesday that the state is dedicating a supply of vaccine for employer-based clinics and setting up a request process.
"They tell us the name of the employer, the location, the week that they would like to schedule the clinic, the number of doses they need, and some other information that helps prioritize those requests,” he said.
Engle said due to not having enough vaccine, the state probably won't be able to fill all the requests right away.
"We're going to look at those requests based on the risk of that population, the type of business, where it's located. All those factors. ... We may talk by phone just to try to understand a little better what that situation is,” Engle said.
He said the state is encouraging companies to work with existing vaccinators. Ann Christiansen, of the North Shore Health Department in Milwaukee County, said trained, medical providers are needed to give shots.
"The state has approved eligibility for about 1,000 vaccinators. So, linking with someone who's already eligible will insure they've got the training and resources to provide a safe clinic for your employees,” she said.
Christiansen said local health departments can help companies connect with vaccinators.
A Milwaukee-area employment attorney, Mark Goldstein, said employers may be able to mandate that workers get a shot, if especially if the employee works with vulnerable populations.
"I've encouraged clients to have someone who acts as a vaccine concierge. Taking available resources that Ann just listed and matching people up, identifying where to go and how to make an appointment, answering questions about vaccination,” he said.
But Goldstein warned employers cannot ask workers why they were vaccinated or why they have not gotten a shot.
This week, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Republican Party criticized Gov. Tony Evers for not specifically including manufacturing workers in the next vaccine-eligible category.
DHS's Engle acknowledged the state is not completely aligned with federal recommendations on the issue. But he said that's not a slam on factory workers.
"We know that there are many essential workers in businesses that are not eligible under those guidelines right now, and it simply is just a matter of a lack of supply,” Engle said.
Engle said real estate workers and people who work in maintenance not related to health care are also among those private sector workers who still have to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine.