’Finally getting it’: People 65 and older begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

This group marks the latest move into Phase 1B after the Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services announced the expansion Tuesday.
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 7:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 at 8:39 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - On Monday, health systems across southern Wisconsin began administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to people 65 and older. The state Department of Health Services announced Tuesday, January 19 this would be the latest group of people eligible for the vaccine.

Several health systems, including SSM Health and UnityPoint Health Meriter said they will reach out to their eligible patients online or by phone to schedule appointments.

“It’s a turn and I just hope people don’t quit,” said Lemuel Ellis. He and his wife Beverly were among the first people 65 and older to be vaccinated at SSM Health.

The couple said after 63 years of marriage, 2020 was one of the hardest years they have been through together.

“Even the time he was in Nam and I was home with 3 small children wasn’t as bad as this,” Beverly said.

For them, getting the vaccine was a ray of hope. SSM Health said they have over 118,000 patients in this newly eligible group.

“It would be nice if we can vaccinate everyone all at once, but that’s not going to be possible,” said Mo Kharbat, SSM Health Vice President of Pharmacy Services.

UnityPoint Health Meriter, which started vaccinating Thursday, has just over 6,000 in this group.

“We will reach out to 900 of them this week to get them scheduled,” said David Childers, Vice President of Clinic Operations.

Childers said they hope to vaccinate between 900 and 1,000 people 65 and older every week if they have enough vaccine doses.

Because of the group’s size, SSM Health is prioritizing the oldest patients, age 75 and above. Meriter is focusing on those with underlying health conditions.

“We’re stratifying a bit and trying to focus on people who are clinically the most at risk,” Childers explained.

It is estimated it will take at least six weeks to get through this new group, and the timeline is also dependent on how many vaccine doses Wisconsin is allocated.

“It may in fact be longer given the increasing number of people that will become eligible,” Childers said.

With each round of vaccines, health care officials say following public health precautions is more important than ever.

“We’re also going to ask everyone to be patient, continue to socially distance, continue to wear your masks,” Kharbat said.

The Ellis’ echoed Kharbat. Beverly said getting the vaccine is “not going to change our way that we live, we still have to be careful.”

UW Health also began vaccinating those in the 65 and older group this week, noting that vaccine supplies are limited at the moment.

Following the Department of Health Services announcement that those 65 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, UW Health has begun vaccinating this week. Vaccine supplies are limited right now, but we will continue to vaccinate members of the community as supply becomes available. We ask that UW Health patients who are interested in the vaccine continue to be patient. We will continue to send invitations to patients to schedule their vaccination as we receive supply. For more information, please visit

UW Health

Officials also said the more vaccines available, the faster the process will go. They hope to see vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson receive approval from the FDA soon.

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