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Sunday, May 22, 2022
Graphic depicting a women searching for Covid-19 vaccine appointments on her cell phone.

Alliant Energy Center becomes FEMA vaccination site as residents encounter accessibility issues

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that the vaccination clinic at the Alliant Energy Center will receive federal support from FEMA beginning Wednesday. 

With guidance from state and local leadership, FEMA will provide 26 federal staff and support services to help administer more vaccinations, allowing the Alliant Energy Center to expand its vaccinations from 5,600 to 7,700 per week depending on vaccine supply. 

“This site will expand access for residents of the state’s capital and second largest city, and for those living in south central Wisconsin,” Acting Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 5 Kevin M. Sligh said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said that Dane County “aggressively pursued” the partnership with the state and FEMA to expand vaccinations. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway also said she is thankful that the partnership will speed up the vaccination process. 

In Dane County, 44 percent of residents have gotten at least one dose and 26.5 percent have completed the vaccine series, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Over 28 percent of the 18-24 age group in Dane County have received at least one dose. 

Statewide, 34.1 percent of residents have received at least one dose and 21.1 percent are fully vaccinated. Eligibility opened up to all Wisconsinites 16 and older on Monday.

Racial disparities are still apparent in who is getting vaccinated, with 41 percent of white Dane County residents and just 16.5 percent of Black residents receiving at least one dose. 

Public Health Madison and Dane County is collecting vaccine sign up information through the DHS COVID-19 vaccine registry, which adds people to their list. PHMDC will then send an appointment email if you are eligible and if they have an appointment available. Transportation is available for those who need it.

While the new assistance from FEMA should increase vaccine availability, finding and scheduling appointments has proven challenging for some residents. 

Although hopeful for the rise in vaccinations, UW-Madison student Lauren Flaschenriem discussed her struggles with finding and keeping an appointment.

“For me, it was just like waking up super early because Walgreens drops appointments at like 6 in the morning,” Flaschenriem said. “I’d be waking up really early to try and get one because they would go so quick. It's especially an issue in Dane County because there are so many people living here.”

Flaschenriem became eligible on March 22, but was not able to schedule and receive her first dose until March 31.

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Flaschenriem joined the Facebook group Wisconsin Vaccine Hunters and Angels to try to find an appointment quickly. She later posted in the Class of 2024 Facebook page sharing what she learned during the vaccine search, including transportation information and when appointments are added at different locations. 

“I can’t imagine a working parent trying to do everything I did, to like refresh pages and get up early. It takes a considerable amount of time out of your day. If you had to take care of other people, I feel like it would be really hard,” Flaschenriem explained. 

Once people do make an appointment however, transportation to multiple vaccine providers in the area can become another issue. Students who are far from home or residents without access to a car may find it difficult to get to their appointments.

While students can use WisCards to ride city buses, other residents must purchase bus passes that cost up to $65 for a 31-day pass or $2 dollars per trip for adults. 

Along with finding transportation, some residents say they are being required to show their IDs to get a vaccine at Walgreens and HyVee. 

Deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that no one should be required to show an ID and that the state is working with vaccinators to make that clear. 

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