Mercyhealth went against state, local policy by vaccinating teachers without approval

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Healthcare system Mercyhealth went against state and local guidelines to vaccinate teachers from multiple Rock County School Districts, according to Rock County Public Health.

Vaccines for teachers began Friday Jan 22, with staff from the School District of Janesville getting a chance to get the shot.

However RCPH said this plan was never mentioned to them ahead of time, despite a representative from Mercyhealth sitting on a newly formed county vaccine advisory committee. Since then, a representative with RCPH said there has been no contact between Mercyhealth representatives and local health officials.

While Mercyhealth decision makers insist they were working with the DHS on the plan to vaccinate teachers ahead of state approval, DHS Wisconsin said they were never informed of these intentions prior to the announcement the shots would be happening earlier this month.

“It would’ve been helpful if there was some communication around that issue,” said Governor Tony Evers at the time. “I think it’s going to be hard to undo that, frankly, without people taking off work, getting childcare, to be vaccinated. So while we would’ve preferred a different outcome, fact of the matter is they made these plans.”

“We wanted to get the vaccine into an arm of an individual because that’s when it’s effective,” said Don Janczak of Mercyhealth. “It’s not effective when it’s in a freezer….We partner with (health officials). We understand where they’re coming from with the plans. We certainly want to be respectful of that. They did provide us guidance that we can move forward with our planned clinics, and we did, and to pause after that, and we are, that’s where we are right now.”

However the “pause” came during a planned vaccination for staff from the School District of Milton on Wednesday. District officials say staff was nearly halfway complete with vaccinations when a Mercyhealth official stated the process needed to end.

“We are extremely disappointed that the commitment that was made to vaccinate our entire staff today was not fulfilled,”  said Superintendent Rich Dahman in a release.

Janczak said teachers from SDM who did not get the vaccine today will have to wait until Mar 1 for another chance.

It is not clear, however, how Mercyhealth obtained enough vaccines to vaccinate entire school district staffs in the first place. A representative from RCPH said vaccine distributors send weekly vaccine needs to the state, which tries its best to fill them. It’s unknown if the vaccines given to teachers were left over, or requested improperly.

“We do not have any plans to jump ahead at all,” Janczak said. “We will certainly follow DHS recommendations, but again, I think we have a very efficient system for our clinics.”