MILWAUKEE - With COVID-19 vaccine in limited supply, health systems are prioritizing which patients in eligible groups are offered the vaccine first. Distribution differs between health systems, but in the end, the message from medical professionals is the same.
Contact 6 met Nancy Tegeder at a walk-up vaccination event. Tegeder had been trying to get her 74-year-old mother an appointment for vaccination. After calling her mom’s doctor, Tegeder decided she needed to look elsewhere.
"Appointments were way far in advance, or there was no room," said Tegeder. "We thought there might be a mob here, but there wasn't."
Like pharmacies and health departments, hospitals and clinics are only getting a fraction of the first doses they’re requesting from the state.
"Our biggest challenge is getting a greater allotment from the state. Then, for the state to get a greater allotment from the feds," said Jonathan Truwit, Enterprise Chief Medical Officer for Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin health network.
As of last week, Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin had administered 38,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Truwit says they are capable of administering much more vaccine. Froedtert is requesting 20,000 first doses a week, but is getting about a quarter of that.
"I would say that our allotment the last two weeks has been better than it was three weeks ago, and I know the state is getting more vaccine," said Truwit.
It’s a similar story at Advocate Aurora Health. So far, it’s administered 48,000 total doses in the Greater Milwaukee area.
"I don't know any system in Wisconsin, or really nationally, that has as much supply as they would like for the demand," said Dr. Jeff Bahr, Chief Medical Group Officer for Aurora.
Dr. Jeff Bahr
Health systems have their own procedures for deciding who they offer a COVID-19 vaccine first.
At Aurora, it’s a scoring system prioritizing people over 65 with conditions that make them prone to hospitalization, and who live in areas disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Based on some emails to Contact 6, that’s led to some vaccine jealousy.
"Individuals don't always have full line of sight into every last detail about another patient's health profile," said Bahr. "So, there may not be a complete understanding over why someone might be prioritized over someone else."
At Froedert, COVID-19 vaccines for people over age 65 went to its highest risk patients first, then patients of its primary care doctors.
"We are now expanding to those patients who see our specialists," said Truwit.
However, doctors tell Contact 6, you don’t have to wait around for your hospital to send an invitation to get the vaccine.
"If you think you can get the shot anywhere, get the shot anywhere," said Truwit.
Health systems are sending vaccine invitations by mail and email, but often, the fastest option is to download their app. This week, hospitals are receiving their first doses for teachers, which come in separate allotments from the rest of their patients.