By Shereen Siewert

New groups of Wisconsin residents became eligible Monday to receive the COVID-19 immunization, as a third vaccine became part of the nation’s distribution chain.

The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend, which will increase availability and shorten wait times for residents. An initial allocation of about 47,000 doses are due to arrive in the state next week, to be incorporated into Wisconsin’s allocation strategy.

Gov. Tony Evers called the new vaccine a “game changer” for the state’s response to the virus.

“One of the biggest hurdles we have faced is supply, and this will get more vaccine into Wisconsin,” Evers said. “This vaccine also protects people and has been shown to prevent serious illness from the virus after just one dose, which makes it more accessible to Wisconsinites and reduces the burden on our vaccine providers.”

More than 700,000 Wisconsinites became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine on March 1. Health care providers say it will take months for everyone who is currently eligible to get vaccinated. Among the new groups eligible for vaccine administration as of March 1 are educators and child care providers, though adults age 65 and older, health care workers and emergency service workers are still in the highest priority group to be vaccinated.

Marathon County Public Health Information Officer Judy Burrows said all Marathon County schools are partnered with a local health care system to provide vaccination for staff. DHS is planning a vaccine distribution system for educators and child care workers, but details remain murky.

Burrows, in a news release, said the new and increased vaccine supplies will allow for teachers to begin being vaccinated while other groups are still completing theirs.

In Marathon County, 40 percent of residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 54.4 percent statewide, health officials said.

Burrows said the situation is improving, yet even those who are eligible may not have access to a vaccine for weeks.

DHS officials say these groups are now eligible for the vaccine, in order of priority:

  • Frontline health care personnel
  • Residents of long-term care
  • Police and fire personnel, correctional staff
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Education and child care staff
  • Individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs
  • Some public-facing essential workers such as 911 operators,public transit,and grocery store      employees
  • Non-frontline essential health care personnel
  • Facility staff and residents of congregate living settings

While groups are prioritized, all groups are eligible March 1. More information about these eligibility groups and where to find available vaccine is available on the DHS vaccine webpage.