There’s been a lot of confusion over exactly who can currently get the COVID-19 vaccine and when. Nearly a year into the pandemic, a lot of people are ready to get the vaccine as a means of returning to a normal life — whatever that means.
But due to limited availability, the government is prioritizing the roll-out.
What’s clear is that being part of the eligible group doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll move up in line, at least not right away.
“There’s a big difference between vaccine eligibility and availability," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley says.
Local leaders say Wisconsin, right now, is only receiving about 70,000 vaccine doses a week and that the county can’t possibly keep up with demand.
Crowley says almost every day he’s seeing or hearing new information from the government, health care providers and media about the vaccine and who is eligible to receive it, who might be next and how to register. He says all the information coming from different sources is making it difficult to know what’s what.
Crowley says the most reliable information will come from two sources: “And so for now I encourage everyone to sign up to receive alerts about vaccine availability at HealthyMKE.com and watch for updates from your local health departments as well."
Laura Stephens is the interim health officer for the Wauwatosa Health Department. She says the city has put up a webpage and is also directing people to the department’s social media updates, but that has not stopped people from calling, especially those who might not be as technologically savvy.
“In those cases, we are taking names and phone numbers so that we can contact them when we get to them. That may be a call individually or it might be an automated recording that we would send out to those phone numbers about how they can sign up,” Stephens says.
Stephens says that if she could ask for one thing, it would be patience.
“We’re trying to vaccinate everyone as fast as we can, but we have a lot of people to get through and a lot of people calling. So I think patience is key but it’s important to us we get everybody on our list and trying to get it out as fast as we can,” she says.
State by state and community by community, different approaches are being taken to getting the needed information out to people. Nicole Armendariz works for Waukesha County and says it is leaning on partners to notify groups eligible for the vaccine.
“We’ve been able to just reach out directly to certain organizations. The American Dental Association to get a hold of dentists. We work with fire departments and other emergency entities to get a hold of EMS,” she says.
Armendariz says Waukesha County has also been working with schools, businesses and health care providers.
“Most people who are 65 and older have a health care provider. So that means that they already have a doctor or they have a place that they go to get health care. And for a lot of people, they’re going to get vaccinated the same way that they get their flu shot. We are working with health care providers who are going to put out, you know, first rounds of communication to the people who are already in their system,” she says.
Armendariz says that for those people who are not connected to a health care system, the county will work with other organizations to loop them in. She says, ultimately, Waukesha County is hoping that residents wait to hear from organizations in their networks about the vaccine and remember patience is needed.