COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. You can find the other COVID-19 vaccines that are in trial phases II or III through this COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

We know that everyone is excited to get the vaccine, but right now we don't have enough vaccine supply for everyone in Wisconsin. Until vaccine supply increases, we are following vaccine prioritization guidelines from the the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Wisconsin State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC).

*Due to the quickly evolving nature of the COVID-19 vaccination initiative, information may change or be updated frequently. DHS will make every effort to communicate the most up-to-date information as soon as it is available.

About the vaccine

How many vaccine doses have been allocated to Wisconsin? How many people have been vaccinated?

The first shipments of vaccine arrived in Wisconsin on Monday, December 14, with the first vaccinations occurring that afternoon. Hospitals and clinics have a number of steps they must take in order to begin administering the vaccine. They are doing everything they can to vaccinate as quickly and safely as possible. As efforts ramp up, we expect to see the amount of people vaccinated keep pace with the amount of vaccine shipped to Wisconsin.

Allocation, shipment, and administration numbers are available on the vaccine data page. These numbers will be updated weekly. The federal government will continue to provide Wisconsin with vaccine doses as more supply becomes available. Allocations of the FDA-authorized vaccines are expected to increase in the coming weeks and months.

Is the vaccine safe and effective?

Vaccine approval is driven by science. The FDA, CDC, and independent advisors review all vaccine safety and effectiveness data before any vaccine is approved or allowed for distribution. COVID-19 vaccines are going through all the same steps in the trial phases that all vaccines go through to get the full FDA vaccine license and approval.

During emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA can issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to let people get a vaccine before all the trials are complete. The FDA will only give a COVID-19 vaccine an EUA if the current phase III trial data shows the vaccine is safe and has more benefits than risks.

Like with all vaccines, after a COVID-19 vaccine is made available to the public, the FDA and CDC will continue to closely monitor the vaccine to help ensure any issues are immediately addressed.

Visit CDC’s website for more information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Why do we need a vaccine?

Getting vaccinated will be one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community. A COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick and potentially prevent you from spreading the virus to those around you.

A vaccine, however, does not replace the need to continue other actions to stop the spread and keep ourselves healthy. This is especially true while we are in the process of administering vaccine, as it will take many months to provide vaccine to everyone who needs it.

What can we do until a COVID-19 vaccine is ready for the public?

It will take many months to vaccinate all Wisconsinites. In the meantime, there are many ways we can protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.

Ways to stop the spread include:

  • Staying at home as much as possible and especially if you are sick.
  • Wearing a mask in public.
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from other people when possible when you leave your home.
  • Avoiding close contact with people, particularly those who are sick.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Getting tested if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash and washing or sanitizing your hands.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

While we wait for more COVID-19 vaccine to be made available, we encourage everyone to get their yearly flu vaccine this fall. While the flu vaccine will not protect against the COVID-19 virus, it can protect you against the flu and keep you and loved ones out of an already overburdened health care system.

Vaccine eligibility

When will COVID-19 vaccine be available for different groups?

We are in Phase 1A of the vaccine prioritization guidelines. Right now, in the early weeks of Phase 1A, the few doses we have are available to frontline health care providers and skilled nursing facility staff and residents. As vaccine supply increases, other health care personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff will be offered COVID-19 vaccination. We expect that it will take several months to vaccinate everyone eligible in Phase 1A.

Beginning January 18, 2021, police and fire personnel will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Local health departments (LHDs) will be leading the coordination for the vaccination of police and fire personnel, as well as Emergency Medical Services and unaffiliated health care providers in their jurisdictions. Local health departments will work in partnership with local vaccinators, including health care systems and pharmacies. To ensure everyone that is eligible for a vaccine has access to a provider, DHS will work alongside LHDs in coordinating with police and fire associations.

After we get more vaccine supply and vaccinate those in Phase 1A, we anticipate that Phase 1B may include persons aged 75 and older and non–health care frontline essential workers. Then we anticipate in Phase 1C, persons aged 65–74, persons aged 16–64 with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in Phase 1B will start receiving COVID-19 vaccine. This information is subject to change based on further guidelines and vaccine supply.

While you are waiting for your turn to get the vaccine, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the CDC's website and become a vaccine advocate for your friends and family.
  2. Bookmark this website and check back in a few weeks as we update information frequently.
  3. It is important to continue wearing masks, physical distancing, washing our hands, and getting tested and isolating if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19. 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.

Vaccine data

What is WIR?

The Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) is an online system that tracks immunizations given in health care settings into one record for Wisconsin citizens. Due to the majority of health care organizations that report, WIR has the most up-to-date records for Wisconsin patients. For information on how to access your own vaccine record, visit the DHS WIR webpage.

Where does the data come from?

WIR receives information from the Wisconsin Vital Statistics program, doctor’s offices, hospitals, employee health sites, schools, health maintenance organizations, Medicaid, the Wisconsin Lead Program, and Minnesota and Michigan’s immunization registries.

There are roughly 3,800 health care provider locations and 3,200 schools and school districts across Wisconsin that report to WIR. Many of these health care providers send data to WIR through data exchange. With data exchange, as soon as an immunization is entered into a chart at the doctor’s office, it is automatically sent to WIR. Other health care providers, manually enter data into the online system or submit immunizations through flat file –which is a formatted file with multiple individuals that can be uploaded to WIR.

Typically, anyone that does not want their immunization history shared in WIR can request to opt-out of the database. However, this option is not available for COVID-19 vaccination due to CDC guidelines.

Are providers required to report immunizations to WIR?

Reporting to WIR is not mandatory unless the provider is part of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) and/or Vaccines for Adults (VFA) programs. Pharmacists who immunize children aged 6–18 have been required since 2015 to submit immunization data within seven days of administering a vaccine.

The CDC also mandates reporting of all COVID-19 vaccination administrations to WIR. CDC has recommended all COVID-19 immunizations administered be submitted to their state’s registry within 24 hours.

Does the system record the location where the person was vaccinated or their home address?

Both. It is important that we know where a person went to get vaccinated and their primary address.

Knowing where someone went to get vaccinated can help us determine how to best distribute doses.

Vaccine coverage data is calculated using people’s primary addresses. This is why vaccine coverage rates can sometimes fluctuate; if enough people move to a different area, they now contribute to the vaccine coverage in that area and no longer contribute to the coverage at their old address.

General questions? Send us your general COVID-19 vaccine questions.
Are you a health care provider with a question? Email us with your COVID-19 vaccine clinical or programmatic questions.

Last Revised: January 13, 2021