Dr. Rai talks COVID vaccine groups and how you’ll know when it’s your turn

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:45 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s the question almost everybody is asking: when will I be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine? Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai says it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

“Everybody has a different definition of 1A and 1B. Our 1A may have been broader, so there may be more people in it versus somebody else’s 1B. And to be honest with you, certain states got more supply than Wisconsin did. There’s a lot of factors in there,” Dr. Rai said Tuesday on Action 2 News This Morning.

Have a question for Dr. Rai? Email news@wbay.com

Previous Dr. Rai segments: https://www.wbay.com/health/drrai/


Prevea Health teamed up with the UW System to open a mass vaccination clinic at the Kress Center at UWGB. Gov. Tony Evers and UW System President Tommy Thompson toured the location Monday.

“It’s an honor to have the governors there, as they call themselves, and they asked a lot of good questions. This is just step one. We have to do this at scale. We have to continue to get bigger. If we have the goal of vaccinating our communities and making sure everybody who wants a vaccine gets one, we can’t just do this--the way the technical aspects of this vaccine works--within our offices. We needed to find bigger space. We learned that at the end of December and then we quickly created a plan to create one.”


Law enforcement workers got vaccinated at the UWGB site Monday.

“Our law enforcement partners are, you know, our partners. They’ve been fantastic during the pandemic at helping us. Yesterday was the first official day that we were allowed to give them a vaccine. Learned a lot of lessons there. Law enforcement--great guys. Probably best if you come in a t-shirt instead of full uniform, so there’s a little bit of a slow-down there, but hey, we’ll get that announcement out and make sure it makes it easier. It was truly an honor to be able vaccinate them and have them be there yesterday.”


“We’re not making excuses at all for anybody, but you understand how rapidly this was developed. Normally, a new vaccine would come out--you would get representatives that would come meet with you in your office, talk about the nuances of it, the best way to give it. And you’re not usually doing that on a mass basis. So to be able to say, alright, here’s a bunch of vaccine, go scale it up, and you’ve never given before and you’ve never dealt with this deep freeze-type situation before and the thawing process, the pharmacy draw-up process, there were a lot of nuances. So we’re at a scale-up situation right now, four-to-five weeks after receiving it with two holidays in there. I think we have to, as the governor said yesterday, be a little patient. The federal government is learning in this process. They’ve made some mistakes. They’ve admitted that. Our state’s been a good partner. Now they’re going to open up who we can vaccinate, and we will continue to scale.

“Health care wasn’t at the table, so they [the federal government] were really about ‘How do we deliver it? How do we get it to everybody?’ But that’s like, a quarter of the actual process. The rest of it is getting it into arms. To make sure it’s safe, to make sure information is protected, it takes work.”


When it’s your turn, you can sign up for the vaccination clinic at UWGB by visiting the Prevea website. You do not need to be a Prevea patient.

“You can go to myprevea.com. Just push COVID-19 vaccine. Here is where you attest to say what category of 1A am I in. I’m a health care provider. And then your acknowledgement to the state, that yes, you’re not lying, that you’re in that category. Now, it’s telling you in 21 days, make sure you have your schedule for your second shot. Now you pick your time that you want to get it done. Then you go through signing your consent, doing your electronic check in, and you’d show up and get your vaccine.

“Only if it’s your turn. You’ll get bumped out. If you cannot attest, if you lie to the state, you will get bumped out unfortunately, and that’s not a good thing, because you’re going to confuse other people that need it. Only do this when it’s your turn, and your turn is when you look at the DHS website and we go into 1B, if you qualify for that, then you can sign up.”


“It’s a huge jump start, to be honest with you. The more people that get it, the less the health systems will be overwhelmed. The less spread we’ll get. So, 100 million in 100 days is a fantastic goal. It should but 300 million in 300 days--it should be less than that. So we want to get that first 100 million done, but from there, we should learn, and even do it faster.”


Why has Wisconsin not moved into the Phase 1B vaccination group?

“Everybody has a different definition of 1A and 1B. Our 1A may have been broader, so there may be more people in it versus somebody else’s 1B. And to be honest with you, certain states got more supply than Wisconsin did. There’s a lot of factors in there. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Granted, there’s a couple of states that got way ahead. Hopefully Wisconsin will catch up with broader plans in the coming weeks to vaccinate more. 1B’s a very big category so it’s not going to be like 1A where we were waiting three-to-four weeks and on the edge of our seat to go to 1B. It’ll take a long time to get through 1B. So once we get started we’re going to be in it for awhile. But there are other states that have approved it, and hopefully we’ll be there soon.

“There’s a draft recommendation [for 1B]--I want to make sure everybody knows it’s draft, it’s not voted on yet--it’s 65-or-70-or older, we’re trying to figure out what number the state’s going to pick; those who live in congregant settings like a group home, or a prison or a jail; another group of health care workers that support health care; those who are in education, so that’s pre-school, daycare, K-12 and higher ed, and not just teachers but those in education; and then a couple of other smaller categories for small industries where they’re just more high risk. And that will be a big chunk. The difference between 65-and-70 in our population is a lot of people.”


Where can I look to find information on the vaccine phase groups?

“There’s a ton of confusion out there and every so often I have to look, too. The Wisconsin DHS website is where you’ll get Wisconsin’s phases. The CDC website is where you’ll get some federal recommendations. Those aren’t recommendations for you and I. Those are recommendations for the state then to use to make their phases. Normally, I’ve always sent you to the CDC website. Now I’m sending you to the DHS website specifically, because that’s where you’ll find the Wisconsin phases. And there’s a lot of details in there of certain categories where you might fit in. So it’s important to know that site. It’s important to read through the phases.

“Because of just the scope of all of this, there’s no list being kept. It’s those that are 65, those that are going to be a teacher, showing that they qualify in that category list. It would be very hard for us to keep a running list because there’s so many people within our county, within our state that would qualify.”


Why are there no mass vaccine clinics in the Valley? Are vaccines going to be accessible to people outside of Green Bay?

“There is vaccine in every community now. Every health system and every public health department is coming up with their vaccination plans. We [Prevea] just happened to open ours yesterday, as did others here. It’s important to know we won’t restrict depending on where you live. Shots in arms. Wisconsin is not that big of an area. We don’t want people to think that they can’t drive to Green Bay. If that’s convenient for them, then do that. We just want to make sure the right people are getting vaccinated at the right time so we can get through this as fast as possible.”


“We got the [Pfizer] EUA approval in November. That’s when our first hint of how to deal with this vial came out. We knew it had to be stored cold. Did not know thaw times. Did not know how long it could be unthawed and used for, refrigerated. So there’s a lot of nuances we did not know. We were planning for vaccination sites in our clinics, and some larger ones in our hospitals. We quickly understood, after working with our own people, that that infrastructure was not going to cut it for a vaccine like this and we needed to go big quickly. So within five days, we went big.”


“We have Saturday hours, and when your phase is called up you’ll be able to log on, you’ll be able to see the hours. We’ve tried to stagger it, making sure we can get people in the evening, making sure that we get people on a Saturday, and continuing to do this. And to be honest with you, if the demand keeps going up, we will expand even more.”


What precautions are being taken for those who have allergies?

“It’s a great question, because quality and safety has to be number one. So you have to have the ability to observe, you have to have people there that can take care of the patient in case there is an adverse reaction. We have all of that equipment. Trained personnel there to do that, including epinephrine, including different, other medications that we can use. And then having EMS on standby. All of that needs to be part of any vaccination site planning. That’s what I don’t really like the concept of a drive up. Because what happens two minutes later after you drive away? Our site, you’re observed, there’s people that are trained to take care of you. We would never open up a site without that training there.”

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