Mercyhealth had to reschedule 470 COVID-19 vaccine appointments this week in Rock County because its weekly vaccine shipment from the state contained only the brand of vaccine Mercyhealth uses in Walworth County.

The health care system announced Monday it will reschedule appointments because it received no first-dose shipments this week or last week.

That conflicted with information from the state Department of Health Services, which showed Mercyhealth did receive first-dose vaccine this week and last.

Two COVID-19 vaccines from separate pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have been approved for use in the U.S.

Mercyhealth gets both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at its Janesville campus, but it sends the Moderna vaccine to its hospital in Walworth County. Pfizer vaccine remains in Rock County, said Don Janczak, director of pharmacy.

Vaccine doses are separated by brand and by location to maintain consistency, Janczak said.

Mercyhealth received first-dose Moderna vaccine this week and last week but did not receive Pfizer doses, prompting the rescheduling of appointments in Rock County, Janczak said.

“We received zero Pfizer first doses this week and last week for the Janesville hospital vaccine clinic,” he said in a statement. “Each week, we request both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine from DHS and we then disperse accordingly.”

Mercyhealth has been told by the state Department of Health Services that it will receive first-dose Pfizer vaccine next week and is planning now for how it will coordinate administration, spokeswoman Trish Reed said in an email to The Gazette.

Patients scheduled for second doses of vaccine from Mercyhealth were unaffected. Providers are automatically scheduled for second-dose shipments when they place initial orders for vaccine, state officials have said.

Vaccinators send requests for doses each week to the state and receive doses on a weekly basis. Vaccinators do not know how many doses they will receive until right before shipments are received, officials said.

State officials said they have been working on giving more advance notice—about two weeks in advance—to vaccinators regarding their weekly shipments.

The state has been unable to fill many orders entirely because of nationwide vaccine shortages.

More than 600 vaccinators requested 337,821 first doses of vaccine last week, but only 70,750 doses were available, said Jennifer Miller, state Department of Health Services spokeswoman, in an email to The Gazette.

The state considers these things when prioritizing where to send vaccine:

  • Whether recipients are federally qualified health centers, free clinics, tribes or providers who primarily vaccinate underserved populations.
  • Whether baseline minimums have been met for local and tribal health departments, vaccine providers serving long-term care populations and strategically placed high-throughput clinics.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index.
  • County population.
  • Counties where allocations and logistical constraints prevented shipments of vaccine early on in distribution.

The state has chosen not to fulfill any requests of 50 or fewer doses to maximize resources, Miller said.

Vaccinators have signed agreements to distribute vaccine based on “certain rules,” she said.

“If a vaccinator is (in) violation of the agreement, this can impact their ability to receive future vaccine,” Miller said.

She did not clarify whether a violation of the agreement was to blame for Mercyhealth not receiving Pfizer doses this week and last.

As of Wednesday morning, 22,481 Rock County residents—about 14% of the population—have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data from the Rock County Public Health Department.

Current vaccination efforts in Wisconsin are focused on vaccinating the state’s 65-and-older population. About 29,000 Rock County residents fall in that age range, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

In Rock County, 12,240 people age 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine. That is about 42% of the 65-and-older population.

Health care workers, first responders, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are currently eligible to receive vaccine.