Vaccinations underway at Alliant Energy Center as PHMDC prepares for expansion

MADISON, Wis. – In addition to testing for COVID-19 at the Alliant Energy Center, Public Health Madison & Dane County is offering select groups protection from the virus.

PHMDC is vaccinating frontline health care workers who belong in Phase 1A as they lay the foundation for more groups in the future.

As of Friday, public health officials said they had completed more than 3,200 vaccinations at the Alliant Energy Center. Thursday, they did just more than 600.

“They’re super happy,” Operations Section Chief Doug Voegeli said of people receiving the vaccines. “I think everyone realizes this has been a long haul.”

Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is high, and PHMDC is working to keep up.

“That’s one of our jobs, to try to get vaccines into as many arms as possible,” Voegeli said.

Right now, the State requires those arms belong to health care workers in the 1A tier. Employers can complete an online survey requesting their employees be vaccinated by PHMDC. Voegeli said they have a system to invite eligible people for vaccinations and work through the long list, which at one point had more than 4,200 people in the queue.

“We randomize the names we have and pull out the names we have for available doses,” he said, adding that the number of vaccinations they give really depends on supply they’re allotted.

Public Health can send people to partners like health systems “to ensure we’re using our full capacity we have in Dane County for vaccination,” Voegeli said.

With each vaccination, he said they get more efficient, preparing to expand as more groups become eligible in Tier 1B.

“The next group will be fairly large,” Voegeli said. “We want to ensure we can vaccinate everyone as timely as possible, so we do have expansion plans, if needed.”

In a media briefing Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health services addressed what the near future for vaccine distribution will look like.

“We’re not going to wait until 1A is all done,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said. “It’s like getting on an airplane. You don’t wait until group A has completely boarded before you open the doors and start letting group B in.”

DHS hasn’t released exactly which groups will be in Tier 1B. A state committee’s final recommendations should be released next week

“We can’t wait until those decisions are made to begin to plan and prepare for expanding access, and so those plans are underway,” Willems Van Dijk said. “I think you will see expansion to other groups within that 1B category very soon.”

That means more shots in arms of people like police and firefighters at the Alliant Energy Center in the coming weeks, though public officials are still stressing everyone keep up safety precautions such as physical distancing and mask wearing.

“We just want to make sure we can move through this tier and get into the next tier,” Voegeli said, “so we can really hopefully get to the general public in late spring.”

In the next month or so, Voegeli said PHMDC hopes to rollout an electronic registration system for vaccines like what they have for COVID-19 testing. He added that there will be other options for vaccination in the community, as well.