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Hospitals grapple with how to verify next vaccine phase recipients

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The next phase of vaccinations officially started earlier this week, but state officials are still finalizing the plans of who exactly is in that group.

For hospitals, identifying some groups of Phase 1B has been easy.

"We can tell someone's age pretty quickly and take care of that," Dr Jeff Pothof with UW Health said.

He says the first patients 65 and older are already scheduled for their vaccines Monday.

What's not as easy is figuring out who else qualifies for Phase 1B.

"What we can't do is have a lot of resources dedicated towards trying to make sure that people who say they work for a grocery store, work for a grocery store," he said.

After thousands of public comments, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Vaccine Subcommittee added grocery store workers, transit bus drivers, 911 dispatchers, and staff involved in the food supply chain, among others, to the next phase.

That's a third of the state's adult population.

With so many people and no easy way to decide who's who, Dr. Pothof says they might have to take a risk.

"It'll come down to scouts honor, people saying, 'hey this is where I work'," he said. "[There's] some sort of small degree of vetting, but really for the most part focusing on getting shots in arms, than being the police, making sure people are telling us the truth as they're coming in for their vaccines."

Mercyhealth in Janesville got a headstart on Phase 1B, vaccinating teachers Friday.

Don Janczak with Mercyhealth says they have a different strategy.

"We're not going to be looking at occupation, we're going to be looking at age," he said. "We'll continue to follow direction from CDC and DHS. They may then further categorize us by occupation and we'll follow their direction."

Mercyhealth will start with people 75 and older Monday to get the most vulnerable population first, then move on to 65 and older.

Hospital officials haven't said yet how they'll address others in Phase 1B.

The first two phases make up nearly half the state's adult population.

Right now, the state gets 70,000 doses a week, so it will take months to get those two groups vaccinated.

Phase 1C has not been decided yet.

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