Wis. hospitals navigate vaccine supply scheduling headaches

Healthcare systems say the capacity to vaccinate is significantly higher than the doses available.
Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 5:23 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 6:57 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Hospitals and healthcare systems are navigating scheduling headaches due to a lack of vaccine supply.

Some hospitals are scheduling in advance, like UW Health and Mercy Health, but prepared to reschedule appointments if there are not enough vaccines allocated during that week.

“If we don’t schedule those patients ahead of time, we could have under-utilization,” said Dr. Matt Anderson, UW Health Senior Medical Director of Primary Care. “We have such a large number of patients and the state gave us a very aggressive time frame to vaccinate them within.”

Other hospitals are waiting until they receive the dose allotment and then quickly working to connect with eligible patients on the waiting list.

“I wish we had a little bit better timeline than we currently do or a little bit extra notice to let us now how many doses we were going to get ahead of time,” said Matthew Garvin, the Director of Pharmacy, at Sauk Prairie Healthcare. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that have to go along with it and done in a very tight amount of time.”

Though a smaller healthcare system, Sauk Prairie Healthcare has the ability to vaccinate 1,000 people per week and has a current waiting list of about 3,000.

“Not having the ability to do what we’re capable of is disappointing,” said Garvin. “We know we can do a lot more than that and we know our community wants us to do a lot more than that.”

UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospitals are tracking their vaccine supply and expect to finish up the Pfizer first dose vaccines on Friday before switching over to giving out the first doses of the Moderna vaccine.

“So far we haven’t had to cancel or reschedule anybody for lack of vaccine,” said David Childers, Vice President of Clinic Operations at UnityPoint Health-Meriter.

Childers says UnityPoint Health-Meriter has the capacity to administer about 1,400 patients per week.

“If vaccine supply were not an issue and if we had additional staffing, then we could scale up proportionally,” said Childers.

At the Alliant Energy Center vaccination site, Public Health Madison and Dane County could ramp up appointments to over 2,000 a day. Ken Van Horn, PHMDC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, says the site is only receiving 1,000 doses per week.

“We’re frustrated because we think we have a really robust system and we’re able to rapidly scale up,” said Van Horn. “We know we can go fast. We know we can go big. We just don’t have the supply of vaccine to do it.”

PHMDC does not send out appointments until the vaccine does have arrived.

“We don’t send out our invitations to schedule until we know how much vaccine we have from DHS,” said Van Horn.

He tells NBC15 the amount of vaccine varies from week to week.

“We had one week were it was as high as 1,950 and we’ve had a week where it was as low as 50 new doses,” Van Horn said.

UW Health says the large number of patients in the next round of vaccine eligibility on March 1st is causing concern.

“It’s going to be challenging for us to even meet a middle of March or so time frame,” said Anderson. “It really is about the size and population that are out there and us wanting to get those patients vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

UW Health says about 21,000 patients are currently eligible to receive the shot. This week, UW Health administered about 2,340 first doses.

“We need that supply because there are huge numbers of patients that are left,” said Anderson.

Health officials are cautiously optimistic the FDA’s emergency use authorization for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will improve vaccine supply.

“That’s what everybody wants to see,” said Van Horn. “Everybody is excited to do that and we just don’t have the supply right now.”

To view the current vaccine data dashboard, click HERE.

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