Answering your vaccine questions: Why does SSM Health have enough to start vaccinating teachers, but UW Health has had to postpone vaccinations?

MADISON, Wis. — A lot of viewers are asking News 3 Now why UW Health is pushing back their vaccine appointments, but SSM Health seems to have plenty of vaccine. Well, it’s hard to compare the two health systems.

SSM Health has 18 clinics across the state that are vaccinating patients, in many different locations. UW Health has four clinics offering vaccine, and all of them are in Dane County.

“It’s been clear that the more counties that you are allocating to, the more doses that you’re eligible for. Dane County has a large number of vaccinators, so what DHS has shared with us is they’re not necessarily giving proportionately. So the more vaccinators you have, that dilutes the amount of vaccine that can be given,” said Dr. Matt Anderson at UW Health.

DHS is also not taking into account UW Health’s large number of patients who are 65 and older.

While UW Health has the ability to vaccinate 7,000 people a week, they’re only being allocated about 2,000 doses. Their dashboard shows more than 40,000 total vaccinations so far.

Last week, UW Health had to reschedule about 4,000 appointments because of a lack of supply.

“The state had asked us to vaccinate our primary care population and do so within the time frame prior to March 1. So we stood up the capability to do that,” said Anderson. “(But) the vaccine supply that we received was inconsistent with that ask.”

He said UW Health has since recalibrated their appointments to adjust for the smaller vaccine supply they’re receiving, and hope to not have to reschedule anymore.

Mo Kharbat, SSM Health Wisconsin Regional VP of Pharmacy Services, said SSM Health struggles with not receiving enough vaccine too.

Each of SSM Health’s 18 clinics request about 2,000 doses per week, but DHS only gives them about 500. That adds up to about 9,000 doses to give out across the state each week.

SSM Health has vaccinated more than 90,000 patients so far, and has not had to cancel or reschedule appointments due to a lack of supply.

“It comes down to planning, how we plan our clinics, how we plan our schedules, how we alternate between our clinic sites. We have 18 sites that give the COVID vaccine, but not all 18 are running every day of the week,” said Kharbat.

SSM Health is starting to vaccinate newly eligible groups, including teachers. They’re scheduled to vaccinate about 2,000 school staff in Waunakee and Sun Prairie this week. While 20% of their vaccine allotment will go to educators, 80% will still go to people 65 and older.

“If we had more vaccine we could’ve perhaps scheduled more than 2 school districts. We could’ve perhaps scheduled teachers to come in on a daily basis going forward after March 1,” said Kharbat.

UW Health is choosing to continue working through their 65 and older patients, with about 12,000 currently scheduled.

“Those people have been waiting for a longer period of time and are typically the most vulnerable for hospitalization and complications, we continue to focus on those folks,” said Anderson.

UW Health has partnered with Public Health Madison and Dane County to vaccinate teachers at the Alliant Energy Center, but because of a shortage in supply, that won’t happen for at least another 2 weeks.