Earlier this week, Wisconsin started vaccinating people who are 65 and older.
But Northwoods residents who have been vaccinated through a pharmacy program like Trig’s or Hometown Pharmacy are a lucky few.
When federal and state governments started enrolling pharmacies to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Trig’s jumped on board.
Jeff Suppon, Trig’s director of pharmacy, estimates Trig’s has vaccinated about 1,000 residents in long-term care facilities over the past month.
But when the state of Wisconsin announced it would move on to phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, Trig’s was caught off-guard.
“We didn’t know those groups were going to be included as soon as they were,” Suppon said.
As soon as people learned about the possibility of getting vaccinated in phase 1B, they started calling Trig’s.
Waitlists for the vaccine at nearly every Trig’s pharmacy stretched longer and longer – to the point that the pharmacies had to stop adding new people to their lists.
Despite the lengthening waitlists, each Trig’s pharmacy only receives about 20 doses of vaccine a week.
“Which is very, very few,” Suppon said.
He said he expects Trig’s pharmacies will eventually receive larger shipments of the vaccine, but that could be a while.
“It’s going to be very, very slow in these next weeks and probably the next couple of months,” he said, “just based on how much vaccine is available.”
Rhinelander Hometown Pharmacy is in a similar situation.
They started administering the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday.
But only the first 15 people on their waitlist received a dose that day.
“Each week we’re planning on ramping up a few 10 or 20 doses every week,” said David Schiek, the pharmacy’s owner. “We’re starting with the 30s this week, I’m hoping for 40 next week and 50 the following week.”
Shiek said about 150 people are on his wait list.
If his pharmacy receives increasing amounts of doses, he said he hopes to vaccinate everyone on the list in the next three weeks.
Not every county in Northern Wisconsin has a large pharmacy chain like CVS or Walgreens to distribute the vaccine.
Only one independent pharmacy serves Iron County, Wisconsin, and no pharmacies are located in Florence County.
That’s according to the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health.
The absence of pharmacies in rural parts of the state can make seeking a COVID-19 vaccine even more challenging.