01 Jan Doctor Jon Cartu Lectures – Rural hospitals, clinics deal with delays, resistance as first va…
SAUK CITY (WKOW) — While many rural healthcare providers got their first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, some deliveries came later than expected.
In other cases, providers have dealt with staff unwilling to receive the vaccine.
The Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative in Sauk City represents 44 facilities across the state. Director of Neighborhood Immunization Ann Lewandowski said Thursday all 44 members had received their first doses of the vaccine and had begun inoculating staff.
Lewandowski said some of the facilities expected their first shipment to arrive last week. It meant workers would need to keep traveling to larger towns with access to special freezers able to store the more sensitive Pfizer vaccine, which arrived in Wisconsin the week of Dec. 14.
“Those sort of logistical hang-ups would be really disruptive so it’s a huge benefit being able to vaccinate staff on-site rather than needed to send them to hubs,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski added other members had invested in the ultra-cold freezers so they could take the Pfizer vaccine, only to have the Moderna version be made available to them first.
“They emailed me wondering about ‘what should we do? Should we take the Moderna?'” Lewandowski said. “The state department of health services has been very clear that they will accommodate requests so it is very possible in the future they will receive Pfizer.”
The Ripon Medical Center, under SSM Health, received its first doses of the vaccine Monday. Director of Work and Wellness Missy Tate said the biggest shift was having staff get vaccinated on-site instead of going to the nearest hub in Fond du Lac.
“Now they have it available right there,” Tate said. “They can have the easy access to the vaccine right within their facility without the need for travel.”
Tate said over the previous two weeks, staff leaving for their vaccines was sometimes disruptive to the day-to-day process at the clinic.
“Of course that’s difficult, when you’re working, to have someone cover, so you can travel a half-hour, obtain your vaccine, and then travel back,” Tate said. “So that’s an hour-and-a-half or so that you’d have to leave your shift.”
With the vaccine now available, to at least some extent, in each of the health cooperative’s facilities, some were at a stage Thursday to begin vaccinating non-employee healthcare personnel.
Lewandowski said Sauk Prairie Healthcare was among those rural providers able to begin giving some of its doses to non-employee frontline staff.
Vaccine resistance from within
Another issue Lewandowski noted was the number of staff in hospitals and clinics choosing not to receive the vaccine. Earlier in December, 27 News reported half of the largely-volunteer ambulance service in Sauk Prairie opted out of getting the vaccine.
“What we know is there has been a coordinated and really strong attempt by groups who are opposed to vaccines to undermine both faith and confidence in the vaccine itself, in the vaccine development process,” Lewandowski said. “Healthcare workers are not immune to that, which is really unfortunate.”
Lewandowski said she hoped as the vaccine became more widely available, some of the staff that had reservations would come around to taking it after seeing their colleagues suffer no serious effects.
“As people start to see those stories, we see acceptance coming up, she said. “More people saying ‘my friend Ann got the vaccine, she knows about them, I’m totally gonna get it now because she was fine.'”