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“Way too long”: Dr. Rai on need for more COVID vaccine amid huge demand for shot

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 7:35 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin residents 65-and-older can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. Local health care providers have scheduled thousands of appointments over the past few days.

“We had openings so we were told to open them up, so we did. We opened up the week for next week with a good number of vaccinations that we knew that we had and that we’re getting. You know, 7,000 people booked in a half-an-hour, I think that’s quicker than [Packers] playoff tickets,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday on Action 2 News This Morning to talk about how they’ve scaled up for this new vaccine group and the strategy for scheduling appointments.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com

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

GEARING UP FOR 65-AND-OLDER VACCINATIONS

“I think a lot of the gearing up started weeks ago, to be honest with you. It was getting our mass vaccination site going, it was buying extra servers to make sure myprevea.com would stay live, and we actually we went and bought more this week to continue to create that capacity for scheduling. So a lot of the planning was done ahead of time. We knew it would come. When it comes, you just have to be ready. I think right now, the infrastructure is there, and it’s easier to scale up once you have that. So just add hours, add staff. But really, it’s about getting the vaccine here so we can give it.

“The initial distribution plans, which were great from DHS, and you always have to keep evolving them, make sure we get vaccine everywhere to make sure we have an even spread and to areas where people might need it more. Now that we’re kind of open up more to the public, it isn’t about what you ask for, making sure that you’re delivering the vaccine to the people who can give it the most. Getting the allocations really to larger centers as quickly as possible to get people vaccinated, and then having a plan for rural, having a plan for minority populations, but people who have a plan and are ready to give the shot, should be getting the vaccine.”

65-AND-OLDER VACCINATIONS UNDERWAY

“We had openings so we were told to open them up, so we did. We opened up the week for next week with a good number of vaccinations that we knew that we had and that we’re getting. You know, 7,000 people booked in a half-an-hour, I think that’s quicker than playoff tickets.”

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET TO THE NEXT GROUP?

“At the current rate, too long. Way too long. There’s no reason that we need to be going at this pace. There needs to be a plan to get more vaccinations to states so we can continue to scale up. You can just say 65-and-older and then say we’re going to work on this now for say, 20 weeks. We knew the dates were coming. The vaccine production, we know those numbers. They need to start flowing to sites. And, we need to continue to scale up our infrastructure to get shots in arms. If it means opening up on Sundays, let’s open up on Sundays. It’s really about getting that distribution to us so we can get it to the population. Otherwise, at this current pace, way too long.”

SCHEDULING APPOINTMENTS

“Right now we’re signing them up on the cadence of vaccines that we’ve been getting every week. So we kind of know this number that we’ve been getting every week so we can go ahead and do that. We asked for a little more this week, they gave it to us, so we based it on that. We asked for even more next week, and if they give us that, then we’ll base our weekly on that. We would hope that the government would never go backwards if we have the capacity to do that. That’s the big question. But, once again, there’s vaccine in production at all times. It’s non-stop production. The flow should be going to us as fast as possible.”

FUTURE CLINICS

“At least from a Prevea perspective, we open up in Eau Claire on the 1st of February, Sheboygan February 4th, and then ballpark for Marinette around February 8th. All of that could change depending on construction timelines and vaccine supply, but our goal is to get this as big as possible, as quickly as possible. And other health care systems are doing the same thing. We’re all learning from each other as fast as we can.”

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

Sources tell CNN the Biden Administration is inheriting a “nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.”

“You would hope you had a plan, but now that you don’t, start from scratch. You have all the resources the federal government has. Trillions of dollars. Thousands of people much smarter than me and everybody else, so let’s just go ahead and get them working. If we can build a site in four days, they can get a plan in 12 hours.”

WAITING FOR AN OPENING

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is open to people 65-and-older, some callers are facing long hold times on the scheduling line.

“I think we were all kind of taken by surprise Tuesday--not really surprise--we found out Monday night that we were to ask for an allocation for the next week for those that are 65-and-older. So we kind of assumed an announcement would come out Tuesday morning. It did. And it said you could start booking the following Monday, so everybody was gearing up to do that. Then around 1, 1:10, we got an email saying, ‘If you have supply, you’re supposed to open up now to 65-and-older.’ So that kind of opened up the lines and got everybody a little bit busier a few days before they were supposed to. That’s OK. To be honest with you the demand was so high, in about a half-an-hour-to-45 minutes, 7,000 slots got filled up by us. That was done electronically and by the phones, so yes, when you called in and asked if you could get an appointment, they were full. Remember, we’re not going to book an appointment for the following week unless we have supply. But then we made a decision later on in the day to say, ‘Well, people need to be able to book.’ We don’t think the state’s going to give us less every week, so at least let’s open up slots for what we know we’re going to get. We’ve asked for more, then we’ll continue to expand those days as we get more.

ARE YOU TAKING APPOINTMENTS?

“We are for the weeks knowing the normal cadence of vaccine distribution. We’re just hoping it gets to be more so we can open up more slots. We have the people, we have the pharmacists, we just need the drug.”

IS IT BETTER TO CALL OR GO ONLINE?

“It’s easier to go online because you’ll be able to see days and really tailor it to what works for your schedule. Transportation is always an issue, especially as people get older. So you can book out a week or two and do that. When you call, we still have spots for those who call. It’s not like we’re going to disenfranchise those who call versus that. There are spots reserved for both sets. There’s a longer waiting time, that’s more than a people-intense person to walk you through. It’s a longer process. So it’s much easier to do myprevea.com. Always welcome to call, too.”

WILL THERE BE ENOUGH VACCINE?

A viewer who has an appointment booked for the end of the month wants to know if there will be enough vaccine to get her shot.

“At least for the next week, definitely we do. Like I said, for the weeks after it’s based on the supply we’ve normally been getting, and we hope to get more.”

COVID POSITIVE AND VACCINE WAIT

Is there a period of time to wait between a COVID diagnosis and getting the vaccine? Is it 90 days?

“False. You don’t have to wait 90 days. You have to wait for your recovery period from COVID to be done, which is 10 days generally for most people, it can be a little longer if symptoms last longer, because remember that last day has to be symptom-free. Generally 10 days. So day 11, 12, whatever you like, you should get vaccinated.”

RETAIL WORKERS

A retail employee says she showers and changes her clothes before interacting with her family after work. Is that a good practice or going overboard?

“Getting infected from surfaces, we’ve had a lot more time to research, is not the most common way to get infected. Now, is it a bad thing to do to take off your clothes and shower when you get home from work if you’re in a highly infectious area? Most definitely not. It’s actually a good practice to do. It’s just not one that’s mandated or highly recommended because there’s no data on is that going to be a primary mode of transmission? But it’s still a good practice to do.”

TESTING POSTIVE AFTER VACCINE

If you get the first dose and test positive before the second, should you still get that booster shot?

“You still get the second shot as long as that second shot is outside of your 10 days of recovery. If it’s inside your 10 days of recovery, you have to wait for that 10 days to be up and delay your second shot. But most definitely you should complete the series.”

LIMITATIONS

A viewer who is 64 and diabetic wants to know if she can get in with the 65-and-older vaccine group.

“Just to remind everybody this isn’t me, or Prevea, or Bellin, or Aurora making the rules. This is the state that makes the rules. When they say 65, we have to live with 65. When they say 64, we can live with 64. Remember, there’s other groups that still haven’t been approved yet, such as teachers, such as those in congregant settings. So there’s going to be a lot more people getting approved soon, and those slots are going to get tighter and tighter.”

NO PROVIDER

If a person has no primary care provider, will they be able to get a vaccine at a pharmacy?

“Some pharmacies are offering it. Some are booked. Any health care provider. It doesn’t matter if you have a doctor or not. You can schedule. You can create a new record and get vaccinated. You should have a primary care physician, but you don’t need one for this.”

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