As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up around the state and in the North Woods, more opportunities will be available to residents to get registered and scheduled for a vaccine beginning next month, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

The Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine Registry allows Wisconsin residents to register for and schedule COVID-19 vaccinations locally, when they are eligible, and as vaccines become available. 

Starting this week, the Oneida County Health Department began testing the vaccine registry in the community. Oneida County residents can check the health department’s website to determine if vaccine registrations are being accepted for scheduling appointments.

Those who are not eligible or unable to get an appointment have the option of being placed on a wait list. The Wisconsin Vaccine Registry will be used by those who opt in and will not be a comprehensive resource for all vaccination options. The vaccine registry will help connect those who have registered with available vaccines, assist with scheduling and reminding people about their second vaccine dose, as well as help monitor for any symptoms after getting the vaccine.

Beginning March 1, if their local or tribal health department is participating in the vaccine registry, residents will be able to fill out a questionnaire that determines if they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and then be able to make an appointment. 

The vaccine registry will likely become available to the public on March 1. It should be noted that not all vaccine providers using this system will be participating as of the launch date — many will be added over time. When available, a link to the registry will be provided. The registry is web-based, but a phone option will also be available.

Local and tribal health departments have the option of using the vaccine registry to help with safely and effectively distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine registry will be available by April 1 for any other vaccinator who is not a local or tribal public health department. DHS will contact registered vaccinators at a later time to survey the level of interest.

Not all vaccinators will choose to use the vaccine registry software and may leverage their own systems.

In another attempt to get more shots in the arms of Wisconsin residents, Gov. Tony Evers last week signed a bill allowing pharmacy technicians and students to administer vaccines under certain conditions.

“While we work to get shots in arms as soon as we have supply available, we also want to make sure we’re maximizing our capacity by expanding the number of people who can administer those doses once we have them,” said Evers. “Getting vaccine doses to folks across our state continues to be our top priority so we can recover and bounce back from this pandemic.”

The bill allows a pharmacy student who has completed two years of pharmacy school to administer a vaccine under the supervision of a health care provider who is authorized to administer vaccines. 

Additional persons would be allowed to administer vaccines under certain conditions, such as if they: have completed at least two hours in a course of study and training, approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education or the board, in hands-on injection technique and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines; act under the direct supervision of a pharmacist who has completed a course in study on topics relating to vaccination; hold a current certification in basic life support or cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and hold a certified pharmacy technician certification from either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcareer Association.

Also recently announced was the launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. This program is a collaborative effort between the federal government and state health officials to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations at participating pharmacies. 

While these locations will initially have limited capacity to vaccinate, this program will play a critical role in accelerating local vaccination efforts in underserved communities, said DHS officials.

Due to the limited amount of COVID-19 vaccine available nationwide, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will start small and expand as vaccine supply increases. Wisconsin launched the program with 178 Walgreens locations across the state, with the majority of sites located in underserved areas.



Local vaccinations

Vaccine shortages on a federal level have caused problems for health department employees across the state who have experienced frustrations from residents looking to receive the vaccine.

Laurel Dreger, director of the Vilas County Public Health Department, addressed concerns in a recent press release, stating that currently there is tremendous demand for the vaccine on a national, state and county level, and not nearly enough supply.

“Generally speaking, the statewide weekly request for vaccine is four times the amount that the state is able to provide,” she said. “Currently the state of Wisconsin receives between 70,000 and 90,000 doses per week from the federal government.”

The process for requesting either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines from the state is the same for all vaccination sites across Wisconsin, Dreger explained. “We do not have control over how much vaccine we receive. The state determines the allocation of vaccines per county based on population, and the amount we receive may be a fraction of the amount we request.”

Members of the public are not the only ones experiencing frustrations about how and when they will receive their vaccinations against COVID-19.

“For those of us who work in public health, the pandemic has been a daunting battle for the past 11 months,” Dreger said. “We chose to work in this field because of our genuine desire to look after the health and well-being of our community. It is extremely frustrating that we are not able to supply and vaccinate each and every one of you on a timely basis.” 

To be added to the Vilas County Public Health vaccination list, call the department’s main line at (715) 479-3656 and leave a name, phone number, and birth date to be placed on the waiting list. “Please be aware that our list is already very lengthy and it will take many weeks to reach everyone on the list,” Dreger added.

Until vaccines are more widely available, people can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and become a vaccine advocate for friends and family. Information also is updated frequently on the Wisconsin DHS website at dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-about.htm.

Finally, Dreger reminds everyone the importance of continuing to wear masks, observe social distancing, and wash hands frequently. Those displaying any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested and isolate for the recommended time according to guidance provided by health care officials.

“If we continue to use all these COVID-19 precaution tools, we stand the best chance of getting our families, communities, schools, and workplaces ‘moving forward’ sooner,” Dreger said.

Those who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. those in Phase 1a — first responders, nonaffiliated health care workers, 65 and older adults, etc.) should see information below to schedule their vaccination appointment. Patience is encouraged with health-care systems as everyone works to vaccinate the community.

• Ascension — Ascension will contact their clients to set up appointments. Do not contact them at this time.

• Aspirus — Call the COVID-19 hotline number at 1-(844) 568-0701 to schedule an appointment.

• Marshfield Clinic Health System — Visit marshfieldclinic.org/covidvaccine to complete a survey for the COVID-19 vaccine or call 1-(877) 998-0880. Those who qualify will be contacted to schedule an appointment.

• Lac Vieux Desert Health Center, located at 302 W Pine St., Suite 2, in Eagle River, call (715) 337-2247.

• Land O’ Lakes Hometown Pharmacy, 4348 Highway B, visit hometownpharmacyrx.com/covid-19-vaccine to complete a survey or call (715) 547-3788.

• St. Germain Hometown Pharmacy, 252 Highway 70 E, visit hometownpharmacyrx.com/covid-19-vaccine to complete a survey or call (715) 479-7608.

• Trig’s Pharmacy, 925 E. Wall St. in Eagle River, visit trigs.com/covid-19 or call (715) 479-6411.

• Walgreens Pharmacy, 108 W. Wall St. in Eagle River, call (715) 479-1069.

• Wall Street Hometown Pharmacy, 123 E. Wall St. in Eagle River, call (715) 479-3306.

• Vilas County Public Health Department, 330 Court St. in Eagle River, call (715) 479-3656.

Information on the DHS’s vaccine distribution page, last updated on Feb. 21, shows that 16.4,%, (3,644) of the people in Vilas County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 5.3%, or 1,173 individuals, have completed the vaccination series. 

In neighboring Oneida County, 20.2% (7,184) people have received at least one dose, and 5.8% (2,065) of residents have completed the series. 

Statewide as of Feb. 16, 1,180,445 vaccines have been administered. There also have been six recorded cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus in Wisconsin as of Feb. 18, and 6,284 deaths, according to DHS data. The United States has surpassed half a million deaths from the disease.

The Vilas County Public Health Department reported 139 known active cases on Feb. 17, and 39 total deaths. Oneida County reported 108 active cases and has seen 65 confirmed deaths as of Feb. 19.