Demand for vaccines remains high in Dane County, but it’s slowing down in surrounding areas

MADISON, Wis. — Even though Public Health Madison and Dane County has a couple thousand vaccine slots open this week, they know those appointments will all fill up because the demand in Dane County is still high.

“Previously we had to be really specific about who we were sending those invites to. We are now sending it to everybody on our list,” said Tess Ellens, Vaccine Coordinator at PHMDC.

If you sign up on vaccinate.wi.gov, even though you won’t see the Alliant Energy Center listed, Public Health Madison and Dane County will email you with an invite to an appointment in just the next few days.

But if you try to sign up at any of SSM Health’s five Madison clinics, you will have to wait until May or maybe even June for your appointment.

“We did not open that many appointment to begin with. We are trying to look at how many doses we’re getting and we open appointments just enough to keep up with the number of doses we’re getting, because the last thing we want to do is over schedule and then you have to reschedule people,” said SSM Health Regional VP of Pharmacy Services Mo Kharbat.

But he said if you look for an appointment at SSM Health’s Janesville or Baraboo clinics, you’ll have a shorter wait. That’s because the demand for vaccines in those areas isn’t as high as it is in Dane County.

“Where we’re seeing vaccination rates stay low and lower than the state’s average are in Rock County, Jefferson County, and Dodge County. So these three counties to the east of here,” said Kharbat.

He said while Sauk and Green counties are doing ok – they aren’t doing as well as Dane County’s vaccination rate. But Kharbat is not sure why the numbers are so different.

“Is it the result of fewer vaccination sites that individuals in these counties don’t know where to go for the vaccine? Or is it because of something else like vaccine hesitancy or not wanting the vaccine to begin with? We don’t know for sure,” said Kharbat.

This has the health system switching up its strategy to do more mobile clinics in those counties with lower vaccination rates.

“If we don’t get there, and vaccination rates remain low in these areas, you would expect these areas to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Public Health Madison and Dane County is also planning to do more mobile clinics, but focused on where there might be barriers to access in underserved areas of Dane County.

“We know that the demand is out there, but it might just be an issue of people not being able to sign up for whatever reason on our website, not being able to get here,” said Ellens.