MADISON, Wis.— DHS announced that teachers and childcare workers would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 1. They're rejoicing all across Wisconsin.
Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution in Wisconsin opens on March 1. That means specific groups are now eligible, but it does not necessarily mean doses will be immediately available for everyone.
Those groups include staff members of local Boys & Girls Clubs.
“I'm ready to go. I can't wait,” Megan Murphy, who works at Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, said. “I've got my phone by me all the time. If my doctor calls, I'm going. Seven in the morning, I don’t care.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs are included in a category with teachers and child care workers, expected to be vaccinated by mid-April.
“This group of newly eligible folks is large. And we know it will take some time to get all of them connected with the vaccine,” said deputy Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.
Nevertheless, the announcement is raising spirits across Wisconsin.
“Things are looking very hopeful,” she said. “But anything can happen."
Boys and Girls Club surveyed their staff, asking whether they’d be vaccinated if given the opportunity.
“Eighty percent of our staff said that they would take it,” said CEO Michael Johnson. “Fifteen percent said no, and then 5% said maybe.”
For some, like Johnson himself, that “no” is more like a “not yet."
“Only because I feel like there's so many more people that need that vaccine before somebody like me gets it,” he said. “I want to encourage all our staff to get it. But I’m fortunate I can work from my office. I can work from home.”
The Dane County organization is currently doing virtual programming, alongside some in-person activities and child care. They’re only working with small groups; they stay distant, and they wear masks.
They may be able to start serving more families once staff is inoculated.
“It’s really, to me, an extra layer of protection and COVID mitigation,” Murphy said. “The research still says we still have to wear masks; we still have to keep our six feet of distance.”
Once they’re able to open to more people, they’ll still continue to move gradually toward offering more activities. Until now, they’ve taken reopening slow, and worked under guidance from the local health department. That won’t change going forward.
Johnson is looking forward to an even wider distribution of the vaccine. It’s obvious he misses all the normal activities around the clubs.
“If there's enough of it done, we can get back to business as usual, and have hundreds of kids in our clubs every day,” he said.
But for now, his Wisconsin staff are ready for their turn.
“We want to make sure our staff and our kids and our volunteers are safe,” Johnson said.