Emergency Department

202 S. Park St.
Madison, WI 53715

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UnityPoint Health - Madison

COVID Vaccine & Treatment Information

Updated March 1, 2021

Although significant progress continues in the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, we ask for everyone's patience and continued practice of COVID safety measures for the foreseeable future.

We want to be able to get this vaccine to our patients as quickly and safely as possible. As production of vaccines increase to the point of being widely available, we will be sure to communicate widely and frequently with our patients and our community.

Rather than calling your healthcare provider, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin Department of Health Services websites for answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine. This helps reserve our staffed phone lines for those calling with active symptoms and urgent healthcare needs.

  • Based on state and local public health guidelines, if you are a patient with a Meriter primary care provider and identify as an eligible individual based off age, we will notify you via phone/text and/or direct mail when you are eligible to schedule an appointment.
    • At this point, we believe we have contacted all of our patients who are age 65 or older via phone/text or letter to offer them a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. If you are a Meriter primary care patient and have not been contacted, please reach out to your primary care clinic.
  • If you identify as an eligible individual based off your place of employment or occupation, we encourage you to closely monitor communication from your local public health department. If you are assigned to receive your vaccine from Meriter, we will likely contact you via email when you are able to schedule your appointment.
  • We expect COVID-19 vaccines to be widely available to the general public later in 2021.

Please remember, until a vaccine is distributed to the general public (and even for some time after), we MUST remain vigilant. Please wear your mask, limit indoor gatherings, practice social distancing, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and stay home when you're sick.

Learn more about the COVID vaccines that have been given Emergency Use Authorization here: Pfizer COVID Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet and Moderna COVID Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet. See UnityPoint health's COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for common FAQ's and more information. Para la versión en español, haga clic aquí.

Vaccine Availability, Cost & Distribution

Supplies will increase over time, and the vaccine should be able to the general public later in 2021. A COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.

How is the vaccine being distributed right now?

The vaccine is being distributed according to state and public health guidelines. 

Eligible groups include:

  • Frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents
  • Fire and police personnel
  • EMS staff
  • People who are 65 years old or older
  • Educators and child care providers
  • Individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs
  • Some public-facing essential workers like food supply, public transit, utility and communications infrastructure, and 911 operators
  • Non-frontline health care essential personnel
  • Congregate living facility staff and residents

At this point, UnityPoint Health - Meriter believes we have contacted all of our patients who are age 65 or older via phone/text or letter to offer them a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. If you are a Meriter primary care patient and have not been contacted, please reach out to your primary care clinic if you would like to schedule an appointment.

Groups that became eligible on March 1: 

Due to the limited availability of vaccine supply, the state has asked us to prioritize our patients who are 65 and over. If you are eligible based on your employer (teacher, food supply, etc.), please reach out to your employer or visit the Public Health Madison & Dane County COVID vaccine website where they are collecting information from employers who have staff in this category.

When it is time for your group to be vaccinated, they will contact your organization with instructions on how to schedule your appointment. Please note that this will likely not occur until April/May based on the amount of vaccine that Public Health is currently being shipped.

We expect COVID-19 vaccines to be widely available to the general public later in 2021. Eligibility, timelines and processes will depend on the number of available vaccine doses.

How will I be notified when I can receive the vaccine?

At this point, UnityPoint Health - Meriter believes we have contacted all of our patients who are age 65 or older via phone/text or letter to offer them a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. If you are a Meriter primary care patient and have not been contacted, please reach out to your primary care clinic if you would like to schedule an appointment.

If you are age 65 or over and not established with a primary care provider, visit the Public Health Madison & Dane County webpage, fill out the survey and they will connect with you with a healthcare provider for a vaccine when you are eligible.

If you believe you are eligible based off your place of employment or occupation, we encourage you to closely monitor communication from your local public health department or employer. We will continue to partner with the local public health department on the best strategies to vaccinate and broadly communicate to these groups of individuals. If you are assigned to Meriter for your vaccination, we will most likely reach out to you via email when it's time to schedule your appointment, so please watch your inbox.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine free?

The only charge for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is an administrative fee, as the vaccine is being provided to us at no cost. The administrative fee is to cover costs we incur such as staffing, supplies, etc. This administrative fee will be billed to a patient's insurance company. Most insurance providers are covering the full cost of the administrative fee so there is no final patient cost/responsibility. For uninsured patients, we will bill the Health Resources and Services Administration's Provider Relief Fund and they will cover the cost in full. We recommend you contact your insurance carrier to determine your exact coverage.

What if I'm having trouble finding transportation to my vaccine appointment?

Dane County Human Services and New Bridge are currently offering free transportation for Dane County adults age 65 and older who have exhausted all their options and need to get to their vaccine appointments. Call (608) 512-0000 Ext. 3 for more information.

About the Vaccine

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. In order to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, the vaccine must be proven safe and effective. The science is rooted in years of research, and every step of the vaccine process went through the same safety assessments as all other vaccines. We want our communities to know our clinical leaders and experts at UnityPoint Health have also thoroughly reviewed all the data surrounding the clinical trials of these vaccines.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. Unlike traditional vaccines, mRNA vaccines do not take a virus or germ, weaken it and inject in the body to illicit an antibody response. The vaccine will not put COVID in your body or alter your DNA in any way. Instead, the COVID vaccine teaches your body to make a protein. Your cells then make this protein, illicit an antibody response and protect you from getting COVID.

What are the ingredients in the COVID vaccine? 
There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval by the FDA. Ingredients for the Pfizer COVID Vaccine may be found on the EUA Fact Sheet.  Ingredients for the Moderna COVID Vaccine may be found on the EUA Fact Sheet. Ingredients for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID Vaccine may be found on the EUA Fact Sheet.

What are the potential side effects? 
Side effects are common, but generally mild to moderate and occur within the first few days of getting the vaccine. For more information on vaccine safety, speed of development and potential side effects of vaccination, we recommend reading the Pfizer EUA Fact SheetModerna EUA Fact Sheet, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet. Materials were created by the FDA and include the latest information.

Will people need to mask after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

After receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, it's still important to follow all the guidelines we've come to know during the pandemic: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and stay home when you're sick. We don't know how long the immunity from the vaccine is going to last, and it's going to be a while before a large percentage of our communities get this vaccine.

When should I get my second dose?

Both vaccines currently available have two doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose at least 21 days after your first dose, and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose at least 28 days after your first dose. Once vaccines become available to the public, it will be optimal to remain consistent within these time frames. However, the CDC says if the second vaccine dose is given late, the series does not need to be restarted. (Please note the second dose will be the same brand as the initial dose, because there is not data to support interchanging brands. Because of limited supply, it is unlikely that community members will be able to select which COVID vaccine they'd like to receive.)

Where can I find more information and/or data on the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine? 
Data for Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen  is publicly available through the FDA website, found on the Pfizer EUA Fact SheetModerna EUA Fact Sheet, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen EUA Fact Sheet.

Should I Get the Vaccine?

Is the vaccine mandatory for UnityPoint Health team members? The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory for UnityPoint Health team members at this time. Each team member will be provided educational materials so they can be equipped to make an informed decision on whether or not they choose to receive the vaccine. 

Should pregnant or nursing individuals receive the vaccine?

Pregnant and nursing individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine. They were excluded from the clinical trials in the development of this vaccine, so no information has been collected regarding its safety during pregnancy. However, our Women's Service Line supports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the position the vaccine should be offered to pregnant and lactating individuals. You can learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics considerations and recommendations regarding receiving the vaccine while pregnant or nursing.

It is important to know that being pregnant puts a woman at increased risk of more severe COVID-19 with an increase in ICU admission and ventilator use when compared to non-pregnant women in the same age group. The bottom line – it's a personal decision, so we recommend pregnant individuals contact their provider to discuss their individual situation. Also, the COVID-19 vaccine does not impact fertility.

View our helpful decision-making guide

Should I get the vaccine if I've had COVID-19?

Yes. Although people who've had COVID-19 have built up antibodies to fight future infection, we don't know how long that immunity lasts. We recommend that people who've had COVID-19 wait 90 days from their infection to receive the vaccine. One of the reasons for this is simply the supply of the vaccine. We want everyone in our communities to be able to get the vaccine.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have allergies?

If you have severe anaphylaxis or an allergy to one of the components of this vaccine, please talk to your health care provider before getting this vaccine. For most people, even those with seasonal allergies or minor food allergies, it is safe and we highly recommend getting the vaccine.

COVID-19 Treatments

Learn more about the treatments available for those who have COVID-19:

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment (bamlanivamimab)

UW Health and UnityPoint Health–Meriter have received a limited supply of bamlanivimab, an investigational therapy for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients.

The medication was recently granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Bamlanivimab is currently authorized by the FDA for patients who meet the following criteria:

- Have positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing.

- Are 12 years of age and older and weigh at least 88 pounds.

- At high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. This includes those who are 65 years of age or older, or who have certain chronic medical conditions.

The treatment is available to all members of the community who meet criteria and all eligible patients will have an equal chance of receiving the drug. UW Health will administer doses on behalf of both Meriter and UW Health.

Bamlanivimab is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19.

To ensure equitable distribution of the limited supply of this medication, UW Health and Meriter will use a nationally recognized allocation framework designed to provide fair access to scarce COVID-19 medication. This allocation framework is grounded in two public health ethical obligations: the duty to steward scarce resources to promote the public's health, and the duty to lessen the impact of social inequities on COVID-19 outcomes in vulnerable communities. The framework was created by ethicists, legal scholars, public health and disaster medicine experts and diversity and inclusion experts.

To learn more about this treatment, or to inquire about eligibility, people should call the UW Health bamlanivimab screening hotline at (608) 720-3319. The hotline is staffed Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 5pm.

While the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated, bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo.

Convalescent Blood Plasma

UnityPoint Health – Meriter partners with the American Red Cross to deliver convalescent plasma to current COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization of convalescent plasma from people who have fully recovered from COVID-19. Current hospitalized patients with serious or life-threatening COVID-19 infections or those deemed at high risk are eligible to receive the plasma.

Recovered COVID-19 donors have antibodies in their plasma that neutralize the virus. Donated plasma from healthy donors who have recovered from COVID-19 is a promising treatment for patients with COVID-19 infections. At this time, convalescent plasma is in high demand, so we highly encourage healthy, COVID-19 recovered individuals to consider donating via the American Red Cross.


Some patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 may be treated with Remdesivir. We identify eligible patients and treat them with Remdesivir on a first come-first go basis. As with all care, our physicians evaluate each patient's case, create treatment plans specific to each person, and prescribe medications that are clinically appropriate for each individual.

Making a Difference - One Vaccine at a Time

History in the making as the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at UnityPoint Health campuses for our front-line team members. When it's your turn, we hope you'll roll up your sleeve, too.