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Dr. Rai: Thousands more COVID vaccine appointments to open up

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 7:45 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Clinics are about to open up thousands of appointments as COVID-19 vaccine supply increases.

“We [Prevea Health] will be able to open up appointments, probably starting next Tuesday for that Wednesday, February 24 into March 2, and overall, around the state, just under 7,000 appointments will be able to open up for the week, which is probably the most we’ve done in a week since we started doing this,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday to talk about that good news, discuss the new clinic in Marinette and answer your questions.

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

Guide to making a vaccine appointment: https://www.wbay.com/2021/01/25/guide-to-making-an-appointment-for-covid-19-vaccine/

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

VACCINE ALLOCATIONS

“Some of the good news we’re getting from the state is a little more predictability, too. So now we actually know what we’re going to have next week. Our weeks in the vaccine world really start on Wednesday and end on Tuesday because of the delivery timing, usually comes in on Monday and Tuesday. You never want to have an appointment and not have the vaccine there. But yeah, we will be able to open up appointments, probably starting next Tuesday for that Wednesday, February 24 into March 2, and overall, around the state, just under 7,000 appointments will be able to open up for the week, which is probably the most we’ve done in a week since we started doing this. That’s really good news because we really hope it can only go up from here.”

WEATHER AND VACCINE DELIVERY DELAYS

“That’s probably the chest-pain invoking moment for me right now. That’s why we’re waiting until Tuesday or somewhere in between there to open up those schedules. Once we know that we can see that driver coming down the road with the vaccine that it’s time to open up the schedules. We never want to disappoint. It’s going to be a little risky for that first week, but obviously if we have an appointment and the vaccine doesn’t show up, we’ll still move that appointment until the vaccine is there. We don’t want to open up those appointments without the vaccine arriving and that’s going to be the tricky part. The good thing is we know it’s on its way and there is a lot of it.”

CHECKING WITH THE ELDERLY

“I think Brown County Public Health’s done a really good job of helping elderly patients get scheduled, where to go, what phone number to dial if they don’t have internet access, but everybody should be reaching out and helping them. Right now in Brown County, we’re doing a pretty good job. I think what I looked at today, about half of all Brown County residents who are 65 and older have received their vaccine. Now we have to get the other half vaccinated as we open up appointments, make sure they know how to get their appointment and they can get in.

RIDES TO VACCINATION SITES

“Everyday we’re trying to say what can we do better? How can we get patients to have a better experience? Transportation is a big issue. We’ve worked with public transportation. It is great that Green Bay Metro will drop you off at the vaccination site at the Kress Center at UWGB now. For those who don’t have access to the bus routes even, we’re looking at different options as we speak.”

VARIANTS AND TESTING

“It’s important to know that when you get your standard test, the antigen test or the PCR test, you won’t know which type or which strain of COVID-19 you have. If, in certain circumstances we are concerned that it could be a variant involved, such as you’ve received both doses of the vaccine, it’s two weeks later and you’re positive--that hasn’t happened yet--but if it does, we would obviously send that to the state. And it’s the state that actually does what’s called the genetic sequencing of the virus that we send them, or the sample we send them, to see if it’s one of the variants. We know we have the variants here in the state of Wisconsin, specifically the UK B.1.1.7 variant, and that’s why it’s so important to continue to wear your mask and remain physically distanced until we have a much larger percentage of our population vaccinated. We likely will see a surge involving these variants if we lay up at all.”

INFORMING THE VARIANT PATIENT

“It would be the state that would get involved at that point because they would have sequenced it. And then they’re definitely going to want to interview that patient. Where have you been? Who have you been in contact with? Trying to understand the path of the virus. A lot like we did in March, every time we have a new variant we kind of start from ground zero. How did this get into this state? What exposure did this person have? How many people could be exposed? How do we contain it?”

MARINETTE CLINIC OPENS FEB. 22

“We’re very excited about that. We’ve provided rural health care around this area for decades and we cared about that we wanted to make sure we had a plan. UWGB at the Marinette campus is going to be our location. We will likely do from a first shot standpoint in that first week--like I said that Wednesday to Tuesday--about 750 vaccines. We’ll do some when we first open up on Monday and Tuesday. We have some allocation for that. We’re really excited to start serving our rural environments even better. We currently have sites in Oconto Falls, so this is just going up one county north. In between those two counties, we’ll hit a lot of those smaller towns. It’s not perfect by any means. We want to continue to grow our rural presence across the state. But every time we do this, we’re making one step forward to getting towards the end of this pandemic.”

ONLINE SCHEDULING: https://www.myprevea.com/MyPrevea/Authentication/Login

PHONE: 1-833-344-HERE (4373)

EXPOSURE AND ANTIBODIES

Do you recommend people get the antibody test?

“We really don’t recommend getting the antibody test. Because what is it actually going to show you? We’ve already say that if you’ve had COVID, we recommend the vaccine. So that’s not a reason to get the antibody test. The only reason to get the antibody test, and it’s still consistent, we’ve said this the whole time, is to see if you’re a donor of convalescent plasma. Because we still use that for patients who in the hospital. So if you’re looking at giving plasma or donating blood, they’ll actually check you for your antibodies there, and if you’re positive they’ll be able to use it for patients. That’s the only reason to check for antibodies right now. Not much science behind it, any other reason.”

POST-VACCINE POSITIVE TEST

A viewer received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and tested positive for COVID-19 about 11 days later. Is it OK to get the second shot as scheduled?

“Most definitely you will get that second shot. It’s important to know that the timing of it may be off a day or two here, and you should be talking to your vaccinator about that. You’ve got to wait 10 days and fully recovered from COVID-19 before you get the first, or in this case, the second shot. It’s not all that abnormal for people because we’ve had such a high level of disease in our community, to get COVID in between the two shots, or actually not know you have it, get immunized and then test positive. So you have to wait 10 days. So if I did my math right, you might be on the 10th day or the 9th day when you’re due for your second shot. So it’s important to talk to your vaccinator and make sure you’ve fully completed that 10th day, you’re fully recovered from your COVID symptoms, and then we can give it to you. If it’s a day or two that we have to push it, for that reason it’s acceptable to push it.”

UNDERLYING CONDITIONS AND PRIORITIES

Why are people with underlying health conditions not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin?

“Most definitely at risk, and as your providers we’re concerned for you, as well. We don’t have control over this situation. The CDC makes recommendations, the state committee then revises those recommendations. When the state committee looks at the most vulnerable jobs, the people that are going to be most exposed to people that could give them COVID, they take into account that a lot of people with underlying conditions under the age of 65 are still working. So then they look at those who are going to be in the most exposed areas and try to vaccinate from that perspective. It’s not perfect by any means. And a lot of this is unfortunately driven due to vaccine supply. If we had all the vaccine that we could give you, we’d probably be moving through this faster and this wouldn’t be a concern. That time is coming. I think we’re going to get a lot more supply here in the coming weeks. Hopefully, and if everybody’s patient, in the coming weeks we’ll be able to get through the next set of eligibles after March 1. And then that should broaden out who we can vaccinate. Once that’s there, then obviously we want to get to people that need us the most.”

ELDERLY AND VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS

Are older people spared from vaccine side effects?

“There’s actually been some research on this--in I think December, mid-December, December 17 is the date--New England Journal of Medicine, they actually studied the Moderna vaccine, which is pretty equivalent to the Pfizer when it comes to what we call reactogenicity. In other words, those wonderful effects that you have after you receive the vaccine: that sore arm, the slight fever, the chills, the tiredness. That’s your immune system working. And they looked at it, those types of reported symptoms for those over 65 or that cohort of older cohorts, and compared it to younger cohorts, and they found that people reported that on an equivalent basis. So yes, you may know somebody who’s older than 65, because that’s the majority of the people we’re vaccinating right now. So there’s a ton of opinions on this. Some people are going to get those reactogenicity type of symptoms, some aren’t. It’s normal not to get them. It’s normal to get them. But there’s not a difference between the ages on that, and that was actually researched pretty well and published.”

DOUBLE INFECTIONS

Have you heard of people getting COVID-19 more than once?

“We’ve looked for it a couple of times and we’ve been concerned about it a couple of times, but we haven’t actually been able to show in a good way that people have been infected twice. There are cases around the world. They’re still pretty minor. We do look for it on a regular basis, specifically, and if we do find that, we actually involve the state. There’s a reporting system for that. That sample is then sent for conformation to the state lab. And that’s where they will likely sequence that virus--in other words, figure out what genes consist of that virus and see if it’s one of the variants, to see why that person got it twice. We haven’t experience that personally.”

SUPPLY AND DOSES

Some seniors are worried there won’t be enough supply to receive both doses.

“There’s been a couple of instances out there where people have had some confusion around the second shot, even some vaccinators, about where their supply is coming. And it created a little bit of angst, so much so that the state actually put out some clarification for all vaccinators that get that second shot in and make sure, and they gave us some instructions on how to get that second shot for those patients. And they actually gave an email address for patients if they’re concerned, and you can get that off the DHS website, but everybody should be getting their second shot. You should feel confident after your first shot that your second shot will be there.

“They actually come in the week that they’re due, but they come in a little bit staggered to make sure that it’s there for you. Our goal is we take second shots off the shelf first to make sure everybody gets their second shot. That’s a commitment we’ve made. Many vaccinators operate off that same theory.”

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