‘We have the ability’: Alliant Energy Center poised to expand vaccination efforts

PHMDC: Lack of supply still a hurdle

MADISON, Wis. – Public health officials in Dane County are working to ramp up vaccination efforts, looking ahead to the days when all groups will be eligible for a shot.

“It is a really grand undertaking to immunize so many individuals,” said Tess Ellens, a COVID vaccine deputy with Public Health Madison & Dane County. “It takes quite a few resources and logistically, there’s a lot of pieces that go into COVID vaccine distribution.”

Since the end of December, Ellens said PHMDC has vaccinated more than 9,000 eligible people at the Alliant Energy Center, working to connect people to health systems to get vaccinated, as well.

“At Public Health, we’re doing our best to fill the gaps,” Ellens said.

Currently, she said they’re able to vaccinate about 500 to 600 people a day at the Alliant Energy Center. That number could be up to 6,000 if the center is chosen to become a federal vaccination site, according to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

“It’s really turned into one of the central facilities for our COVID response,” Parisi said.

He announced Tuesday that county leaders have applied to become one of 100 such regional vaccination sites across the country – two in each state.

“We do know we have the perfect infrastructure there, specifically the pavilions we built about a half dozen years ago,” Parisi said. “What we do believe if we’re chosen is this would certainly be ramped up.  There’d be a lot more personnel and a lot more folks going through there on a daily basis.”

Parisi is cautiously optimistic, saying that the federal government’s decision should come within a few weeks, and the operation could be up and running by the end of March.

Either way, PHMDC is preparing to ramp up distribution at the Alliant Energy Center, looking to hire limited time employees as vaccinators.

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Posted by Public Health Madison & Dane County on Tuesday, February 2, 2021

“We have the ability to scale up quite a bit,” Ellens said, noting that the biggest hurdle to that is supply. She’s hopeful that will increase in the near future with additional prospective vaccines from manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson.

“Hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll start to grow little by little,” she said. “Eventually, there will be so much we won’t have to worry so much about gating people to make sure they’re eligible.”

Currently, she said thousands of people are in PHMDC’s queue to get vaccinated. That includes people eligible in Wisconsin’s Phase 1A and some in Phase 1B, including health care providers, emergency responders and some people 65 and older. PHMDC uses a randomized process when inviting people on the list to get vaccinated.

“We want to make sure it’s as equitable as possible, so we’re not the ones deciding who comes in on a certain day,” Ellens said.

She said an online portal from the State coming in a few weeks that allows people to schedule appointments will be helpful.

“It will really help us streamline the process of getting people signed up in an efficient way, so that we’re able to track how people are eligible as well as when they’re able to come in a little bit easier,” Ellens said.

PHMDC has more information for those looking to get vaccinated on its website.