La Crosse’s healthcare fighting COVID-19 vaccine supply

COVID-19 vaccine supply at Gundersen Health System unknown week to week, contributing to slow vaccination rates
La Crosse's Healthcare Fighting Covid 19 Vaccine Supply

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin is considered one of the slower states rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine. Health leaders at Gundersen Health System say there is a reason.

The COVID-19 vaccine is in style. So much so, health care leaders don’t have enough to go around each week.

“I’m happy that there’s so much desire and, I think, an understanding of the importance of this vaccine,”  Dr. Todd Kowalski said, an infectious disease doctor at Gundersen Health System. “The challenge is the supply.”

Doctors at Gundersen can’t do much about the rate of vaccinations according to Kowalski.

“We are at the mercy of the supply we get from the state,” he said. “The state is at the mercy of the supply they get from the government.”

Gundersen has 70,000 patients 65 and older eligible for the vaccine today. Healthcare professionals are vaccinating 4,000 people this week. It would take until the end of May to vaccinate this population. That’s just with Gundersen Health System’s network if they average this number.

Wisconsin trails 28 other states administering the first shot according to recent CDC data. Remember, two doses are required for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. UW-Health senior medical director of primary care, Dr. Matt Anderson, said the state has work to do.

“I think we’ve had some bumps in the road for sure,” Anderson said. “I don’t think we’re an A, but I don’t think we’re an F either

The solution to the holdup lies within the supply chain in Anderson’s eyes. He would like to simplify the process that brings the vaccine to people’s hometowns.

“Obviously part of it’s a manufacturing-supply issue,” Anderson said. “Part of that then becomes a distribution process issue. The more we can simplify the latter part than I think the better off we’re gonna be, the faster we’re gonna be able to move.”

There’s also not much lead time about the vaccine’s availability from week to week.

“We don’t know until literally the Friday before how many doses we’re gonna have available to us to give out the next week,” Kowalski said.

He said he does know there is reason to believe things will improve. He is looking forward to spring.

“As we get those more favorable outdoor environments, we are gonna be in a very different place certainly by this summer, and I’m hopeful even before then,” Kowalski said.

Kowalski continues to ask for people’s patience. Gundersen patients can use their MyChart account to find out when they can get the vaccine. The health system is mailing out letters to people who do not use the MyChart account.