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Be patient: Dr. Rai says vaccine appointments will open as supply comes in

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 7:36 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s a lot of hope when it comes to giving COVID-19 vaccines to millions of people in Wisconsin.

“Hopefully, the way the state has been talking to us, we’ll start opening up two weeks in advance instead of one week, so more people can kind of plan their life and know when they’re going to get their vaccine. So good news coming around, all around now,” says Prevea President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai.

Need to make an appointment? CLICK HERE for our First Alert Vaccine Team guide to getting a vaccine.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays on Action 2 News This Morning. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com.

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

NEW GROUP AND APPOINTMENTS

“It is going to be the largest group we’ve done to date. Very excited to be able to offer more vaccines to more people. The list for those who are eligible is on the DHS website as well as our website on prevea.com. It’s a very long list. There are a lot of different chronic underlying conditions that qualify you for a vaccine: those with asthma, those who have had cancer and treatment for that that make them immune compromised, and those that are obese. But I think the category that people are always forgetting is the slightly overweight category: a BMI greater than 25. We did the calculation: 5′10 and 180 pound male is qualified for a vaccine. It’s a large amount of people, so we’re asking everybody to be patient. Schedules will continuously open up now as we get more supply from the state. So tonight we’ll find out, from a Prevea perspective, actually all vaccinators find out tonight, what we’re going to get and how we’re going to open up more slots in the coming week. And hopefully, the way the state has been talking to us, we’ll start opening up two weeks in advance instead of one week, so more people can kind of plan their life and know when they’re going to get their vaccine. So good news coming around, all around now.”

ASTRAZENECA TRIALS

Reports say AstraZeneca may have used outdated data in their vaccine trial.

“Kind of an odd situation, because normally that would not be debated in the press. AstraZeneca released its own data, which looked really good and hopefully it is. The NIAID, one of the governing bodies that’s essentially in charge of the monitoring board, that independent set of scientists that are reviewing the AstraZeneca scientists’ work, said maybe we need to look at this data a little differently, in a different context, which is normally scientific questioning back and forth. The FDA will take a deep dive into this before its approved. So you’re looking anywhere from two to six to eight weeks before AstraZeneca hits the market, depending on what timeline they get on. At that point, we’ll also be seeing the peak of Pfizer and Moderna and J&J production. We’ll have to see how AstraZeneca fits in the national vaccine formula. Once it’s approved--if it’s approved--we still have to go through those steps and try to figure out how it fits in that formula.”

IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL?

“The number one advice we have to give is the CDC advice, which is to avoid travel at this point. But it’s a very broad statement if you think about it. The United States is a little more homogenous, in a sense that interstate travel, you could be living in Marinette, Wis. right now and cross the river and be in Michigan. So what is the definition of travel? So it’s really where you are going as part of that, making sure that wherever you’re visiting in the United States, or even of you’re going abroad, is not in an outbreak situation. You want to make sure that the rules are still in place, that they’re masking, they’re doing all the right things. So that’s one aspect. The mode of travel, I think is something people talk about a lot. There haven’t been a whole lot of studies saying air travel is bad, because airlines are doing a good job. As long as they continue to do a good job, that’s good. So it’s a little bit about the rules of the destination. I think the most important part that people forget is, what do you do when you get there? Are you going still behave the way you should be: masking and physically distancing? You’re not going to be sitting in a crowded indoor place without masks. Are you going to spend time outside, which is why I hope you would be traveling in better weather. So I think you have to look at all of that and make decisions. Obviously being vaccinated puts you at lower risk, but the risk is not zero. The CDC will hopefully come out with more advice around this. It’s a pretty complicated thing to just have a recommendation of don’t travel or do travel right now.”

BROWN COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS TESTING SITE CLOSING

“It’s not as much as we’re shutting testing down because we don’t need it, we actually need a lot more testing. But the weather is better. This was our indoor winter site. Brown County needs it back and that parking lot back for our boaters. We’ve moved what we’re doing there to four local sites, which will still continuously test. Same free testing from the state of Wisconsin. Same way to register for the test. We need people to get tested, especially if you have symptoms. So the closing of the site just means that we’re moving it to four locations. Let’s say we’re going back into our spring/summer mode now.”

VACCINE OPTIONS

A viewer wants to know what type of vaccine will be used next week at the clinic at UWGB.

“We don’t really know what’s going to come next week. It’s a great day to ask that question. We usually find out around Tuesday night. After 5 o’clock, we’ll get an email from the state letting us know what our allocation is for next week. That’s when we start building the schedules and we’ll start opening those up for the following week. And then we’ll know if we’re getting Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson. Sometimes it’s all three. And then we have to make sure each site is working well and has enough vaccine, because we have more than just the GB site, obviously, within the state. So we won’t know until later tonight. The majority of what we’re getting is Pfizer, but once again the easiest place to check is prevea.com/vaccine. You can see what we’re getting at every site.”

WHEN CAN I GET MY SHOT?

A viewer who is 63 wants to know when he’ll be able to get his vaccination.

“It really depends on what your underlying health conditions are, because as of yesterday in the state of Wisconsin, there’s a long list of people that can now get vaccinated. Actually, it’s almost two million people in the state of Wisconsin when you look at it. It could be something as simple as asthma, or you could be slightly overweight. I think when people look at that list they’re looking at ‘well, I have to be obese to get the shot.’ No. It’s actually just being slightly overweight, or a BMI of over 25. This week it’s actually to your advantage and you can get vaccinated.”

HOMEBOUND

When will the homebound get the vaccine?

“Our homebound population has been definitely top of of mind for us throughout this process. We’re starting to actually put those plans together. We’ve had conversations with our public health officers on how to best do it, our home nursing. We’re starting to make those lists, working with the ADRC and understanding who is homebound, what the definition is. Are they homebound because they don’t have a ride? Well let’s get them a ride, because it’s still easier to do it at a mass vaccination center. Are they homebound because they just can’t leave the house because of a physical condition? It’s tricky, because you would think, OK, J&J, you don’t need to freeze it. It’s one shot, you can give it. But once that vial is punctured, we have to use it in two hours. We have to find five doses in two hours to use. Working through all of those mechanics, and hopefully soon we’ll be doing homebound patients.”

DOSES AND PROVIDERS

Can you get your second dose of vaccine at a different provider than the first?

“You shouldn’t. The way that the doses are allocated to us, is it’s literally to the location where you got your first dose. So if you got your first dose at a Walgreens, they should have made your appointment for your second dose at Walgreens. If you got your first dose at UWGB through Prevea, that’s where your second dose is going to arrive. The second doses follow the first doses. They should be in the same place, given by the same provider. Otherwise it would kind of be a mess trying to figure that out between all the different vaccinators.”

POSITIVE BETWEEN DOSES

What happens when someone tests positive between COVID-19 vaccination doses?

“It’s a question that comes up a lot. You have to wait 10 days. You have to wait for you to be fully recovered from COVID before you would get the first shot or the second shot. So if you happen to get it between the first and the second shot, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait. That’s where you talk to your vaccinator and let them know that you turned COVID positive and they’ll move that second shot appointment for you. It’s one of the only rare reasons that we’ll move that second shot appointment is that you have a confirmed lab test that you’re positive. And it would be 10 days after you’ve finished your isolation period. In other words, you’re symptom-free on that last 24 hours, you’re released from isolation. On that 11th day you can receive that second shot.”

HOW LONG DOES PROTECTION LAST?

How long does protection last after the second dose? Will we need an annual shot like the flu vaccine?

“Really, the reason why we need to get a flu shot annually is because the virus that we’re exposed to annually changes. If COVID-19 continues to remain the COVID-19 that this vaccine protects against, even some of the variants that it’s protecting against, technically we should be able to go longer than a year. We won’t know that until we’re a year into this, which will be this summer. Hopefully we’ll be able to answer that question with a lot more data later this summer, but it may not be until the fall or winter that we start to assess the need for a second dose.”

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