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UW–Madison finalizing plans to provide COVID-19 vaccine to eligible students and employees

December 17, 2020 By Kelly April Tyrrell

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This week, in a historic moment nine months into the pandemic, the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived at UW Health. Pending approval by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, University Health Services will manage the process of administering vaccines to frontline health care workers and other individuals at UW–Madison who are eligible for the initial phase of vaccination, or Phase 1a.

Phase 1a includes health care workers and employees in direct contact with COVID-19 patients or who have direct contact with the virus or virus specimens. UW–Madison employees and students who are not dual appointees at UW Health but meet these criteria should have received an email from University Health Services on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Phase 1a eligible employees and students should check their email regularly for information about vaccination and scheduling. 

Employees with UW Health appointments will be included in UW Health’s vaccination efforts and will not receive an email from UHS. 

Anyone who believes they should be vaccinated under Phase 1a because they meet the criteria above but who do not receive an email from UHS by Friday, Dec. 18 should contact Include the subject line “Phase 1a eligibility” and provide your full name, contact information and a description of your eligibility. Only those who meet the criteria established by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be approved for Phase 1a. 

The university is committed to distributing available vaccines to our community equitably, safely and effectively.

With input from medical and public health experts, UW–Madison is also identifying individuals who may qualify for the next round of vaccination. These decisions depend on the availability of the vaccine and on final guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the federal government.

As vaccine supply increases in the coming weeks and months, more UW–Madison employees and students will become eligible, though widespread vaccine availability is likely to be several months away.

All individuals are encouraged to seek the vaccine when they become eligible, though the vaccine is not currently mandatory. Vaccination is expected to help achieve herd immunity, in which a sufficient number of people are protected from the virus that causes COVID-19 and it is limited from spreading to vulnerable people.

Everyone in the UW–Madison community should continue to do their part to keep people with whom they may come into contact safe from the virus by wearing face coverings in public, maintaining physical distance, avoiding gatherings with people they don’t live with and frequent hand washing.

About the Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine must be administered in two doses to confer protection. While some people will not have any side effects from the vaccine, others may experience symptoms such as headache and mild fever. For more information about these side effects and to read more FAQs, visit:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization on Dec. 11, 2020. The company Moderna has also submitted an application to the FDA for emergency use authorization. UW–Madison may receive either of these vaccines, and both require two doses for full protection.

Several other vaccine candidates are in clinical trials, including one from Astra Zeneca that is undergoing clinical trial investigation at UW–Madison and UW Health.