Hometown Pharmacy has put in a request every week for COVID-19 vaccine doses, but none have come yet, a pharmacist told the Observer.
That’s because the vaccine supply is “extremely limited,” Tess Ellens, a COVID vaccine deputy and immunization outreach specialist at Public Health Madison and Dane County, told the Observer Feb. 9.
So, many Oregonians 65 and older hoping to get their first dose of the vaccine will have to wait a little longer.
The state Department of Health Services deemed people 65 years of age and older eligible for shots on Jan. 25. In Wisconsin, 87% of people who have died from COVID-19 fall within that age group, according to state health officials.
However, at assisted living facilities, residents received their second doses of the vaccine this week.
Sienna Crest and BeeHive Homes are among the facilities in Oregon that have received the first dose of vaccine. Both have gotten the Moderna vaccine, which was offered to all employees and residents.
Vaccinations are optional, and the majority of people opted in. This week, residents were given the second dose. And anyone who missed their first dose during the initial vaccination day was able to receive that this week.
While some people had a reaction of minor COVID-like symptoms, all are doing well now, BeeHive’s nursing director Gina Fine told the Observer.
Around the U.S., more people are being deemed eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 42 million receiving shots as of Feb. 9, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of that same day, Wisconsin ranked 11th in the nation and first out of all Midwest states, with 10.3% of its population having been given at least the first immunization, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wisconsin is now leading the nation in the average number of vaccine shots being administered daily — a massive increase that comes as the Evers administration is expanding its rollout to include free vaccination clinics across the state, according to a Feb. 8 article.
Dane County is faring better than the state average – as of Tuesday, Feb. 10, 11.4% of people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Still, there’s a vaccine shortage that extends beyond Dane County, Ellens said. And that it’s been a problem across the state in terms of communities getting less vaccines than they’d requested during the first three weeks of rollout.
As of last week, there were 70,000-90,000 doses being provided to the whole state per week. With nearly 550,000 residents in Dane County alone, there hasn’t been enough to go around, she said.
Last week, while 90,000 doses were available, there were requests for 290,000 doses between all the vaccinators statewide.
Allocation of the vaccine for each state is based on its population, and right now that means Wisconsin is only getting 1.7% of all vaccines available, Ellens said, and why states around Wisconsin are a little bit further along with the rollout.
As such, decisions have to be made about how to prioritize where to distribute the limited supply.
For that, Public Health, healthcare providers and vaccinators are following guidelines from the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Ethnicity, race, tribe, socioeconomic classes are some considerations for how to prioritize.
Another consideration is a county’s social vulnerability index, which uses census variables to help local officials identify communities that may need support first. Counties that score higher on the index are more vulnerable, and receiving the vaccine first, Ellens said.
“We’re trying to work really hard to make sure this is equitable — after H1N1, there were hard lessons learned that equity did not lead that process,” Ellens said. “We’re working internally and with community partners to make sure these vaccines are going to those who need them the most and that we are all good stewards of vaccines in Dane County.”
Right now, the rollout is open to those in “tier 1a” which includes healthcare professionals, the residents and employees of long-term care facilities, police officers and firefighters, which has been a “soft opening,” Ellens said.
“That’s 40% of all Wisconsinites – people lose sight of that – that’s huge,” Ellens said. “We’re not even in phase two and that’s already half the state. That’s a really enormous undertaking.”
By March 1, DHS hopes to expand vaccinations to teachers, childcare workers, and essential works in the agricultural sector. By that date, DHS estimates that 50% of Wisconsin residents 65 and older will be vaccinated, though Ellens called that a “total guess.”
She said there aren’t specific benchmarks for moving from one tier to the next, just that the “critical mass” of that tier is completed before DHS can move on.
“It’s difficult in terms of that we recognize that a lot of people want the vaccine, but there’s not enough to give out,” she said. “We’re working closely with healthcare providers and vaccinators to get vaccines out as fast as possible.”
Wisconsin currently has over 1,200 COVID-19 eligible vaccination sites, according to the DHS.
Those include healthcare providers, pharmacies, local health departments, places of employment, and community-based vaccination sites, according to the DHS.
And for now, most healthcare providers are contacting people 65 and older, who became eligible on Jan. 25, according to health provider websites. In Madison, UW Health is notifying people 71 and older, and those 65 and older who are Black, Hispanic or Native American – all ethnicities that have been harder hit by the pandemic and have been sickened at least at twice the rate of people who are white, according to data from Public Health Madison and Dane County.
SSM Health is focusing on 75 and older, and UnityPoint Health-Meriter has told its patients, “we will notify you,” when appropriate.