Man getting a COVID-19 vaccine
Thomas Johnson, 74, of Milwaukee, gets a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine Feb. 4 from Jordan Bretzmann, a nurse at Progressive Community Health Centers. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Evers also signs law letting dentists give vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and the flu.

As of Monday, more than 2 million state residents affected by a variety of pre-existing medical conditions are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The new group of eligible people includes those 16 or older with conditions such as cancer, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, and asthma. Nearly 70% of the state’s population is overweight, according to state Department of Health Services (DHS) data, so the new group ensures a vast majority of state residents will be eligible for the vaccine, whether through work or health conditions.

Also on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a bipartisan bill that clears the way for Wisconsin’s roughly 3,500 licensed dentists to administer COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Dentists must first complete 12 hours of training before they can give the shots.

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Evers has said the state will open up vaccine access to anyone who remains ineligible by May 1, in line with a directive from President Joe Biden. Speaking in Kenosha earlier this month, Evers said the final group could become eligible sooner and that he and DHS will try to make that happen.

The increased eligibility comes as more than 25% of state residents have received one dose of vaccine and almost 15% have completed their vaccine series, according to DHS data. 

Wisconsin’s vaccination outlook is generally positive, with the state on track to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by July, Deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said last week. Biden has set July 4 as a target for the nation to return to something resembling normalcy. 

The newly qualifying pre-existing conditions are: 

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (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
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39 kg/m2)
  • Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)