RACINE — Tuesday was opening day for the community-based COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Regency Mall.
Through Saturday, the state-run clinic is planning to administer 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That total could grow to about 5,000 before the end of the pandemic.
The clinic — set up in the former Burlington Coat Factory store at Regency Mall — has the space and potential staffing to administer up to 1,000 doses a day. But, allocated doses remain limited by the State of Wisconsin, which is in turn limited by how much it gets from the federal government, which is buying doses by the millions from FDA-approved vaccine producers Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
What to expect
To enter the facility, people have to use one of malls entrance. The exterior entrance to what had been the Burlington Coat Factory on the south side of the building is exit only.
Those who are vaccinated at the mall should expect to be in and out in under an hour.
“There is no reason for it to be long,” said George Kowalski, project manager for the operator of the site: AMI Expeditionary Healthcare.
One of the factors that could lengthen the appointment is if the individual has underlying health conditions, which could lead to a longer observation time after the vaccine.
Generally, people with no underlying health issues are expected to wait approximately 15 minutes after getting their shot before being allowed to leave, as part of the health professionals’ precautions to make sure that those who are vaccinated don’t have an allergic reaction.
Those with underlying health issues are more likely to wait for about half an hour.
The Regency Mall vaccination clinic is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Those interested in receiving a vaccine — regardless of eligibility status — are encouraged to register for the clinic at vaccinate.wi.gov. Those who register will receive an invite to book an appointment when they are eligible.
For residents without access to the internet or prefer using the phone, call 844-684-1064 to register.
This week, more than 2 million Wisconsin residents with certain underlying medical conditions — including asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and obesity — became eligible for the vaccine. For a list of medical conditions and a full list of who is eligible in Wisconsin, visit DHS’s “Am I Eligible for the Vaccine?” page at bit.ly/3sf4QeQ.
Mayor Cory Mason said the facility will allow more people to get vaccinated sooner, finally combating the once seemingly uncontrolled spread coronavirus.
“We have vaccines that are safe, that are effective, and they truly are the way forward in returning to life the way we all used to live it and hopefully will live it again,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said during a celebratory press conference Tuesday afternoon outside the mall.
Goal: No wasted shots
The site is operated by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare in collaboration with Central Racine County Health Department, City of Racine Public Health Department, Racine County Emergency Operations Center, other local partners and DHS.
It’s the third DHS community-based vaccine clinic to open in Wisconsin.
Staffing at the clinic will vary day to day, depending on how many vaccinations are scheduled. Generally, the site will have anywhere from 6-10 people on hand who can administer vaccines.
“Our goal is to give every shot that we get and not waste any doses,” he said.
Rather than preparing shots for the entire day of appointments, the vaccines are pulled throughout the day so the clinic uses just what it needs, Kowalski said.
If staff is doing their job correctly, there will not be unused shots at the end of the day.
However, if that happens, Kowalski said the local health department will supply them with contact information of people who are either vulnerable to COVID due to age or someone with an underlying health issue on waitlists to be vaccinated.
Kowalski advised that people should not line up at the end of the day looking for a vaccine.
State and local officials have worked hard to remove the barriers that could hinder someone from taking advantage of the vaccine clinic.
As such, the Regency Mall clinic has:
- A wheelchair on hand and is wheelchair accessible;
- Translators for those whose first language is Spanish, Erdu or Hindi;
- Staff who are prepared to assist the deaf, through visual communication cards that are on display at the site along with paper and pen for those who prefer to write.
Timberlake said that the state now has the capacity to administer more than 400,000 shots during any given week, but the state does not receive that number of doses from the federal government.
This week, the state will vaccinate between 175,000 and 180,000 people.
Timberlake said the state determines where the requests for vaccines are coming from, examines the population of those communities, and then do their “very best to distribute the vaccine in ways that it’s going to get to people.” However, the result is that the vaccinators are getting less vaccine than they ask for in many cases.
Bobbi Fergus, community health director for the City of Racine Public Health Department, said she was “extremely excited for this site opening in Racine County.”
“This is a great opportunity for individuals to be able to get vaccinated when they become eligible,” Fergus said. “As we continue our efforts moving forward, vaccination is the way to go … If we can get more vaccines into people, we can hopefully get back to normalcy.”