West Salem School District partners with private pharmacy, runs own vaccination site

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – The La Crosse County Health Department held a vaccination site last week for county educators.

But the West Salem School District was notably absent.

The most effective way to end this pandemic is to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.

“So all of our kids can be back in school and get that hands-on education and face-to-face education that everybody wants,” West Salem School District superintendent Ryan Rieber said.

West Salem had the option to participate in a vaccination site run by the county last week.

“We knew that we had this opportunity,” Rieber said.

To instead run a private clinic of their own Wednesday.

“We wanted to make sure that if we were able to provide an opportunity for our staff to get vaccinated, then we were going to provide them that opportunity,” Rieber said.

Rieber made some contacts ahead of time.

“I picked up the phone and made a phone call. Simple as that,” Rieber said.

To HealthDirect Pharmacy Services out of La Crosse, which is privately-owned.

“The pharmacy that we went through, they were in conversation with the La Crosse County Health Department,” Rieber said. “And the La Crosse County Health Department gave this pharmacy the blessing to go forward and vaccinate us through that.”

HealthDirect is an approved vaccine provider, despite not being a retail pharmacy. It does not give vaccine to the public.

“We’re not taking any shortcuts,” Rieber said. “We’re not trying to overstep our bounds.”

Gundersen’s department director of bioethics and humanities Dr. Tom Harter says he doesn’t blame the school’s decision to partner with the pharmacy.

“That’s what we actually should be doing is trying to build as much support around the community as possible in getting people vaccinated,” Harter said.

Vaccinators have guidelines how the vaccine should be distributed.

“Do you sometimes wish there was more structure? Sure,” Harter said.

But he says guidelines are also meant to be flexible.

“You do what you can to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Harter said.

Which is exactly what Rieber did.

“Everything is completely kosher,” Rieber said. “Right by the book.”

A strategy he says only helps slow down COVID sooner.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing our part for the wellness of not only the West Salem community, but the greater La Crosse community as a whole,” Rieber said.

Rieber says 93 school staff, including himself, rolled up their sleeves today.

He says some other staff are choosing to get vaccinated through medical care providers or Walgreens.

HealthDirect Pharmacy Services will be giving second doses to West Salem school staff on April 1.