MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin residents age 16 or older who have one of a wide range of pre-existing health conditions will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting March 29, including people who are overweight, pregnant or have high blood pressure, health officials announced Thursday.
People who don’t have pre-existing conditions or who haven’t otherwise qualified yet to get vaccinated are expected to become eligible sometime in May, the state Department of Health Services said.
The long list of qualifying conditions to get vaccinated includes asthma; cancer; cerebrovascular disease; chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cystic fibrosis; Down syndrome; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; a weakened immune system from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; liver disease; and neurologic conditions, such as dementia.
The expansive broadening of eligibility is expected to cover about 2 million more people. Because so many more people are going to be eligible, vaccinators may need to prioritize those who are at a higher risk, such as people with two or more conditions, older people, or those in communities that are disproportionately affected by the virus, the health department said.
The widening of the eligibility criteria comes as virus-related restrictions are loosening around the state and country. Madison Metropolitan School District, the state’s second largest, announced Thursday a phasing in of in-person classes, with everyone returning by April 27. Kindergarteners were the first to return this week.
Teachers have been prioritized for the vaccine in Madison and throughout the state as part of the most recent eligibility group.
Nearly 65% of people age 65 or older have been fully vaccinated in Wisconsin, and more than 20% of the population has received at least one dose, according to state and federal data. As of Thursday, more than 1.1 million people in Wisconsin had received at least one dose and more than 647,000 were fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new positive cases was at 388, the lowest it’s been in nine months as hospitalization rates have also steadily declined.