MADISON, Wis. - Everyone in Wisconsin age 16 and up will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, April 5.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the change in a tweet, saying: "Expanding #COVID19 vaccine eligibility today marks a major milestone in our work to overcome this pandemic and bounce back together."
The April 5 date comes after the governor and health officials have said the general public wouldn't be eligible until May. However, with more than 2,000 vaccine providers in the state -- including one that opened Tuesday at Henry Maier Festival Park -- and new efforts to simplify the process, everyone will soon be able to get their shot.
"Everyone who wants the vaccine, will get the vaccine," said Gov. Evers. "I know I’m not alone in feeling the hope, excitement and relief we all have anxiously awaited this year."
Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said a number of factors played a role in the date change, including an expected increase in supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as concerns about language barriers that have created confusion among non-English speaking residents.
"No more having to sort out, if you’re in or if you’re out. It’s time to just move forward and get everybody with a shot in their arm," said Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS deputy secretary.
The state had opened vaccine eligibility to roughly two million people age 16 and older with certain health conditions on March 22, two weeks prior to the April 5 date for the general public.
"We’ve given those folks a head start ahead of the general population," said Willems Van Dijk. "The other thing is, opening it up to everyone doesn’t mean providers can’t continue to prioritize people with chronic conditions."
With cases on the rise and three variant strains of virus now confirmed in Wisconsin, leaders said the finish line is nearing, but without more people rolling up their sleeves for the vaccine, it remains out of reach.
"Step up and get a vaccine so that there isn’t any open appointments in the state between now and the end of June," Willems Van Dijk said.
Where to get the COVID-19 vaccine
There continue to be many options available for getting vaccinated, including through DHS, federal, and local community-based vaccination clinics, pharmacies, healthcare providers, local and tribal health departments, and employers. More information about each of these options is available on the COVID-19 where to get vaccinated page.
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for individuals age 16 and 17.To find a local vaccine provider visit the COVID-19 vaccine provider map or visit https://vaccinefinder.org. Individuals can also call the toll-free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 with questions or help registering for a vaccination appointment. The hotline is also available in Hindi, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.
Certain vaccine providers are using the COVID-19 Vaccine Registry. Anyone can register for an appointment using the COVID-19 vaccine registry. After you register, you will be notified when you are able to schedule an appointment. Appointments are based on whether a vaccine provider in your area uses the registry for scheduling and has available vaccine, and your place on the waitlist. Other vaccine providers may use their own scheduling system.
States allowing earlier than expected vaccine eligibility
Wisconsin joins at least 37 other states expanding vaccine eligibility to the general public, either already or in the coming days and weeks. That list includes neighboring Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.
As of Tuesday afternoon, March 30, the following states have announced a date of when they will open up vaccine eligibility to the general public before May 1:
States with general public vaccine eligibility before May 1 (as of March 30)
Associated Press contributed to this report.