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Full Speed Ahead: What Max Capacity for Oneida County COVID-19 Vaccinators Might Look Like

Iron Mountain VA Medical Center

Starting next week, vaccinations will be increasing significantly.

The next eligible group in Wisconsin includes more than two million people.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk told reporters last week that the state is increasing eligibility because vaccine supply is increasing.

“We’re talking about 400,000 to 500,000 doses a week in the coming weeks,” said Willems Van Dijk. “We need all hands on deck cause this is going to be the point where there’s a lot of vaccine and lots of demand and we need lots of vaccinators administering it.”

Credit Wisconsin DHS

That 500,000 doses a week is 200,000 more doses than what has ever been done in a week.

No vaccinator in the Oneida County has reached max capacity for how many vaccinations they can do in a week.

WXPR wanted to know, if supply wasn’t an issue, how quickly could local vaccinators get shots in arms. So we asked.

According to a vaccine provider map on the DHS website, there are 11 different places people can go in Oneida County to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

WXPR called or emailed all of them with the same question: ‘If vaccine supply wasn’t an issue, how many people could you vaccinate in a week?’

The amount varied by the type of vaccinator, but they all had similar factors that would contribute to how many shots they could give out, things like staffing and demand for the vaccine.

So far, all vaccinators have greater demand than supply of the vaccine.

Ascension said it could do 2,000 per week between St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander and Howard Young in Woodruff, but it could also open up additional clinics if need be.

Aspirus estimates it could do between 800 to 900 a week at its Rhinelander Clinic.

Marshfield’s Minocqua Hospital estimates it could get 6,000 shots in arms a week.

The Oneida County Health Department said it can do 2,000 vaccinations a week.

Threes Lake Pharmacy told WXPR it does between 100 and 150 per week right now and could increase that to 200. Hometown Pharmacy in Rhinelander does between 60 to 120 a week right now.  

Trig’s and Walgreens haven’t responded by this article was published.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

If you add all of those up, vaccinators in Oneida County could be giving out more than 11,300 shots a week.

Even if all those vaccines were the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines that require two doses, they could get all of Oneida County’s population vaccinated in less than eight weeks.

That timeline is also shorter when you take into account that more than 10,000 people in Oneida County have already gotten at least one dose.

There also other groups working in Oneida County and the Northwoods getting people vaccinated like Tribes and the VA Medical Center.

This means that Oneida County could keep pace with the state’s timeline of getting 80-percent of the adult population vaccinated by the end of June.

80-percent is often the threshold medical experts say we need to get to in order to achieve herd immunity.

About 13-percent of the state is currently fully vaccinated.

“If everything goes as planned now, we anticipate that by the end of June we would have enough vaccine in the state to immunize 80-percent of adults or people 16 and older who are eligible for the vaccine,” said Willems Van Dijk. “We’re really hopeful. I keep saying, ‘Wouldn’t that be a wonderful 4th of July celebration to have hit 80% community immunity in Wisconsin.”

Outside of vaccinator capacity and vaccine supply, the biggest factor will be demand.

“All we will need over the next few months is the public, raising their hand and saying, ‘I’m ready. I want to protect myself. I want to protect my family with these very safe vaccines, and I want to protect my neighborhood and my community,’” said Willems Van Dijk.

The prospect of getting everyone vaccinated is exciting for the people giving shots.

Sara Bangs is the Director of Patient Contact for Aspirus and has played a large role in vaccine rollout for the medical group.

“It does feel really good after all the months of being on the receiving end of all the challenges associated with so many patients that were struggling with COVID-19,” said Bangs. “Honestly, doing this work we are all do so excited to get vaccines out. These are happy days for us. The problem we want to have is too much vaccine. That would be a lovely problem to have.”

If you are eligible, you are encouraged to either make an appointment or get your name on waitlist. Check out WXPR’s COVID-19 Vaccine Resource page for places to get vaccinated in the Northwoods.

The state has a goal date of opening the vaccine to all Wisconsinites 16 and older by May 1.

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