When the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) allows individuals in Phase 1B to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — which was anticipated to be announced around March 1 — Sauk Prairie Healthcare will continue to vaccinate those age 65 or older, while also beginning to vaccinate Phase 1B eligible recipients.

DHS has defined the next eligible group in a priority order to receive the vaccine. The first group includes educators and child care providers, with the second priority group including individuals enrolled in Medicaid Long-Term Care programs. The third priority group is public facing essential workers and non-frontline healthcare personnel, followed by staff and residents in congregate living facilities.

All groups will be eligible, though Sauk Prairie Healthcare will continue to use the state-defined prioritization based on available vaccine supply. This means Sauk Prairie Healthcare will first work with school districts and licensed childcare providers, then move to vaccinate others within 1B prioritization as supply allows.

“Our number one goal is to get everyone who is eligible vaccinated as soon as possible. Our challenge is the limited supply of vaccines right now,” said Shawn Lerch, CEO of Sauk Prairie Healthcare. “There are 14 locations in Sauk County who can provide vaccinations to those eligible. We are proud to be part of a combined community effort to provide vaccines.”

Sauk Prairie Healthcare also has a clinic in Lodi as part of its network group. Sauk Prairie Healthcare encourages groups and individuals who are eligible to seek out multiple vaccination opportunities in our region and get the vaccine wherever they can be accommodated soonest.

“This is truly a momentous time as we move from a purely defensive strategy to an offensive strategy,” said Lerch. “The vaccine provides a critical layer and allows us to attack COVID-19 at the source. But understand, our other defensive tools of masking, distancing, and washing are just as critical until we reach herd immunity.”

Process for Phase 1B

“For us, vaccine supply continues to be the limiting factor,” said Shawn Lerch, CEO of Sauk Prairie Healthcare. “We are prepared to vaccinate 10 times as many people each week, but instead have been encouraging area residents to get the vaccine wherever they can get in soonest. It’s frustrating, because we’d like to be able get people vaccinated sooner than supply has allowed.”

On March 1, the DHS released more groups to be eligible for the COVID19 vaccine. Due to the limited supply of vaccine doses, DHS has directed that people age 65 and older, educators, and child care workers be prioritized for the vaccine before others in the 1B group.

According to DHS, each local health department has submitted a local-specific plan to DHS detailing how they will vaccinate staff of K-12 schools and child care in their communities. DHS will sett aside a portion of vaccine doses each week for educators beginning the week of March 15. Sauk Prairie Healthcare has been identified as the vaccinator for some of the educators in Sauk and Columbia counties, and will work directly with a point of contact at those school districts. Those employed at schools should work directly with their employer to understand their vaccination plan.

“As of this date, we are still learning the details surrounding the vaccination of child care staff,” said Lerch. “It’s our understanding that county public health departments have begun the process of contacting regulated child cares to begin planning for how that group will receive vaccinations..”

Others in Phase 1B should not anticipate that vaccine will be available to them until mid-April. These groups include: individuals enrolled in Medicaid Long-Term Care programs; some public facing essential workers, including 911 operators, utility and communications infrastructure, public transit, and food supply chain; non-frontline essential healthcare personnel; and congregate living facility staff and residents.

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