Wisconsin expands eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine to educators

Beginning March 1, Wisconsin expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to educators and childcare workers. Before this date, only health care providers and individuals in long-term care facilities had access to the vaccine. 

Eligibility also expanded to individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public-facing essential workers, residents and staff of congregant living facilities and nonfront-line essential health care personnel. 

With this expansion, 700,000 Wisconsin residents are now eligible to receive the vaccine. 

Lexi Beaver, a teacher’s assistant in the College of Communication, stands as one of these 700,000 individuals and said eligibility for the vaccine feels bittersweet. 

“It feels really good, kind of relieving,” Beaver said in an email. “If I’m being honest though, I feel kind of bad somehow. I’m just a TA who sees groups of students once a week, so I feel bad for taking up a vaccine.” 

However, Joseph Borchardt, an adjunct professor in the College of Business Administration, said he is excited for the new changes vaccines may bring.

“I’m excited because it’s a major step in a return to normalcy,” Borchardt said in an email. “We’ll eventually be able to meet, socialize and collaborate without needing to be six feet apart or in masks and that will improve the educational experience for sure.”

Borchardt said he also feels better knowing that he now has a “place in line.” 

“Late last year The NY Times had this interactive tool that could help you ‘find your place in the vaccine line’ by entering some key details,” Borchardt said in an email. “When I did it, I was something like 150 millionth in line, so this just feels better.” 

For Marc Whitney, adjunct professor in the College of Communication, eligibility for the vaccine also seemed to be something of a distant dream. 

“Even watching the positive steps around the country this year, getting the vaccine for myself always seemed distant,” Whitney said in an email. “Then, it all came together quite quickly, which was great.”

Whitney received his vaccine March 3 — two days after he was granted eligibility from the state — and said he was amazed how quickly the U.S. has ramped up vaccine production. 

“It was a bigger deal, to me, than I expected,” Whitney said in an email. “It amazes me that 12 months ago we were being told to expect 18 months or so before a vaccine would become available, and now we are quickly approaching 100 million doses administered in the United State alone.”

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has administered 90 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, making up a total of 18% of the population with at least one shot in their arm. 

With production ramping up quickly, President Joe Biden said that the United States is on track for every adult to be vaccinated by the end of May

However, Whitney said opening up the vaccine to teachers now will send a positive message, specifically to the younger generation.

“Anyone working with young people should want to receive the vaccine, if only to set a proper example,” Whitney said in an email. “Here at Marquette there is an expectation of how teachers and students act and interact because of COVID, but for younger children, to see teachers and others getting the vaccine is a positive message to send.”

Despite being vaccinated, Whitney said he will continue to implement the same COVID-19 precautions in his classroom; some being initiatives he may carry out post-COVID-19. 

“How many people caught a cold or had the flu this winter?” Whitney said in an email. “Why not wear a mask when you are in a classroom or close quarters during cold/flu season moving forward?”

Following the adoption of community mitigation measures to reduce COVID-19, the percentage of U.S. citizens submitted for influenza testing that were found to be positive dropped from 20% to 2% and has remained at a historical low, indicating measures — like face masks — may be effective in containing the flu. 

In total, Whitney said he is thrilled to have received the COVID-19 vaccine and looks forward to others getting the shot as well. 

Those who are now eligible for the vaccine can schedule their appointment at the City of Milwaukee Health Department website. 

This story was written by Claire Driscol. She can be reached at claire.driscol@marquette.edu