Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic To Open In Appleton Feb. 1

With Current Vaccine Shipments, Officials Anticipate Giving Around 1K Shots Per Week

Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton
Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton. KDTW Flyer (CC BY)

Part of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton will host a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic next month. Local health officials say they expect to initially vaccinate around 1,000 people per week with plans to expand once more doses are available.

The clinic is the result of a collaboration between Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties along with Ascension NE Wisconsin-St. Elizabeth Hospital and Thedacare. During a Thursday press conference at the Fox Cities Center, Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford praised local and regional leaders for pooling resources into the clinic.

“I think it’s fitting that this clinic is located here at the Fox Cities Exhibition Center as this facility was built by all of the Fox Cities communities,” Woodford said. “And so, this is a shared asset.”

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Due to limited doses of vaccine, shots will be reserved for people age 65 and older, who became eligible Monday. Vaccinations will be by appointment only and are limited to three-hour increments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays starting Feb. 1. Online registrations begin Friday.

Thedacare Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Frank encouraged those interested in getting vaccinated not to call local hospitals or public health officials.

“We are asking for your patience and understanding as we really focus on immunizing and vaccinating our most vulnerable members, the people who are highest risk for death or hospitalization from COVID,” said Frank.

Appleton City Health Officer Kurt Eggebrecht said as more vaccine becomes available, and as more groups of people are deemed eligible for immunization by the state Department of Health Services, the exhibition center clinic will scale up to meet demand.

At the Aliant Energy Center in Madison, just over 9,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been given to emergency medical staff and other health care workers from around the region since Dec. 29. Public Health Madison and Dane County emergency preparedness coordinator Ken Van Horn told WPR that works out to around 2,400 shots per week.

He said an exhibition building on the property is serving as a drive-thru vaccination clinic, while other drivers head to another building for COVID-19 testing.

“For sheer efficiency and speed and volume, you’re never going to beat a mass vaccination site,” said Van Horn. “Because they have the same economies of scale you would get in any other endeavor.”

But Van Horn said there are populations better served by smaller vaccine clinics at health care facilities.

“If you have higher-risk individuals, the smaller clinics, where there is more personalized attention from the staff, are going to excel,” said Van Horn.

While the Aliant Energy vaccination clinic benefits from economies of scale, Van Horn said it’s currently being held back by the number of doses it gets from the state.

“It’s a vaccination engine and our fuel is vaccine,” Van Horn said. “And right now we just can’t get enough fuel where we’re cruising along at 2,400 vaccinations a week. But we have the capacity to go much faster, and we can; at the drop of a hat if we got the vaccine supply, we could scale up a lot.”

To do that, Public Health Madison and Dane County has plans to open additional buildings for drive-thru vaccinations and scale from five to seven days a week, said Van Horn. On paper, he said they could easily get to 15,000 to 20,000 vaccinations per week but that would require “an enormous” amount of vaccine.