A community COVID-19 vaccine clinic is expected to open at Wessman Arena on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus in mid-April.
The state is contracting with a group called AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to provide staff for the clinic, according to Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi. The team will be shared with Barron County and split its time between the two locations to administer the vaccine.
A regional clinic, the site will serve residents of surrounding counties, as well as those who live in Douglas County. People who live, work or study in Wisconsin will be able to receive vaccines at Wessman Arena.
Tentative plans are for vaccines to be given two days a week in Douglas County and two days a week in Barron County, with opportunities for mobile clinics to bring vaccines to other sites in the area.
Vaccines will continue to be administered through Essentia Health, Mariner Medical Clinic, Walgreens, CVS and the health department, Ronchi said. The clinic will just be another access point. The vaccine supply will come from Douglas County’s overall allotment.
“By the time they are up and running, the assumption is we will, by that point, be able to get as much vaccine as we need,” Ronchi said.
It would be ideal if the site was able to offer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, she said, so hundreds of people could go through each day with no need to reschedule a second dose. The county has not received any of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to date.
Wessman Arena was a good fit for the clinic, offering a handicap-accessible site with plenty of parking, Ronchi said. The county has a good working relationship with UWS; the campus is currently offering free COVID-19 testing in the Marcovich Wellness Center.
The new COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Wessman Arena will not impact any UWS student activities or sporting events. Spring commencement will be held in a virtual format, according to a UWS news release.
The clinic will follow state eligibility guidelines. Vaccines are currently available to health care workers; long-term care residents and staff; firefighters and law enforcement; residents age 65 and older; educators and child care workers.
Teachers at Douglas County schools began receiving vaccines this week, Ronchi said. Vaccines for child care workers in the county are expected to begin next week.
A number of groups became eligible for vaccines March 1, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health. They include individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public-facing essential workers and congregate living facility staff and residents. Demand for the vaccine continues to outpace supply, however, and doses will be given in priority order.
About 48% of Douglas County residents age 65 and older have received the vaccine, compared to about 60% statewide.
"So we need to continue to prioritize them as we move into these other categories," Ronchi said.
As of Thursday, March 4, 16.9% of Douglas County residents — 7,306 individuals — had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state's vaccine data. More than half of those, 4,213, had received both doses.
Registration for the new community vaccine clinic will be taken online through the state. Ronchi said she will share the link with media and on the county website when it’s available. The Douglas County Health Department will continue to take phone calls for vaccine appointments through its hotline, 715-395-7336, until the community clinic is up and running.
Ronchi encouraged anyone who is currently on the county waiting list to make sure their phone can receive a message.
“A lot of times we still run into people who don't have voicemail set up or their voicemail is full,” Ronchi said. “It's hard to keep going back through the list and call if we can't leave a message."
People who signed up for the waiting list, but received a vaccine from a different outlet should call and leave a message on the hotline to get their name taken off the waiting list.