Struggling to get the vaccine: Options for people waiting for their first dose

‘We’re sort of in this nebulous never, never land.’ People in eligible groups still haven’t gotten a first dose.
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 9:05 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - NBC15 heard from several viewers about difficulties getting the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and took those concerns to local health providers to find out what options are out there.

One of those viewers is 75-year-old Mavourneen Kelly. Kelly and her husband became eligible for the vaccine at the end of January.

“I started putting my name and my husband’s name on lists around the area, a number of pharmacies large and small,” Kelly explained.

She and her husband have been trying to make an appointment for their first dose ever since, but their local clinic is small and struggling to keep up.

“They had so few doses that they were limiting to them to really the upper age group, initially 85 and up and now it’s 80 and up,” Kelly said.

Nearly a month later, Kelly has not had any luck getting the vaccine, even outside Dane County.

“I feel like we’re sort of in this nebulous never, never land here,” she described.

NBC15 reached out to local health providers for any tips they could offer Kelly. UW Health said checking with pharmacies is a good first step.

Right now, UW Health is only vaccinating their patients, but they are encouraging people to get the vaccine anywhere it is available.

“If they have the opportunity to be vaccinated somewhere else, we would definitely embrace them doing so, and then just ask that they let us know,” said Matt Anderson, UW Health’s Senior Medical Director for Primary Care.

Anderson added if people have an appointment with their primary care provider, they should keep that appointment even if they are searching for another option. If they are able to get vaccinated elsewhere, that is when they should contact their provider and cancel.

SSM Health said they are accepting non-patients. Anyone can fill out the interest form on their website.

“We will reach out to them when we have vaccine supply available to allow us to schedule them for an appointment,” said Vice President of Pharmacy Services Mo Kharbat.

These options do not guarantee a vaccine right now. Public Health Madison and Dane County emphasize vaccine demand still far outweighs supply.

Some pharmacies are also not receiving first doses every week. Kelly said she ran into this problem when she called some pharmacies, and they told her they were only giving second doses of the vaccine.

“We don’t qualify for second doses, so then there’s no vaccine available,” she said.

For now, the key for Kelly and others like her is patience.

“I feel like if we could just get vaccinated, maybe there would be some opportunities to be together again,” Kelly said, adding she has not seen her kids and her sister for nearly a year.

UW Health told NBC15 Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) is putting together a map of all available vaccine locations across the state. NBC15 reached out to DHS to find out when that tool will launch, and DHS said they will be making an announcement soon.

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