LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - AMI Expeditionary Healthcare is running a mass vaccination clinic beginning Tuesday, March 9 at UW-La Crosse.
On Thursday, March 4, La Crosse County Health Department announced that a mass vaccination clinic would be coming to La Crosse. The clinic is at the UW-L Clearly Alumni Center beginning Tuesday, March 9. It runs Tuesday through Saturday each week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To start, Maggie Smith, a public information officer from the La Crosse County Health Department said they're prioritizing anyone currently eligible for the vaccine. She explained that the eligible group is determined by the state Department of Health Services and the state Disaster Medical Advisory Committee.
"In the first few weeks, we are going to prioritize the people in our community who are 65 and older," said Smith. "We know that there are still a number of people eagerly awaiting a vaccine so we are going to use these first few weeks to reach that population."
After that, they will continue to move through eligible groups. Smith explained that AMI Expeditionary Healthcare runs the clinic and administers the vaccine shots.
All eligible individuals who can be vaccinated at the clinic must first sign up for an appointment through the Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine Registry. After registering, those eligible receive notification of the opportunity to schedule their appointment
Dan Beck, Senior operations manager at AMI, explained that they were contracted to set up community-based vaccination clinics by the state of Wisconsin. The first vaccination clinic began in Rock County. Now, La Crosse County is getting the state's second.
"AMI is a global leader in expeditionary health," said Beck. "The company has over fourteen years of experience in deploying medical personnel and services to some of the most challenging environments across the globe."
AMI's initial support in Wisconsin surrounded CDC investigation and testing activities. Now, they are helping with vaccinations after the state decided to partner with them for these clinics.
He explained that the company has learned a lot from their experiences and working with the Ebola crisis back in 2014-2015 that will help them now with the COVID crisis.
Wisconsin isn't the only state they are helping in. Beck said they have a large presence in Pennsylvania and they have helped with testing and other things in a number of other states. He explained that this is the number one priority in the country right now.
"I met with our team in La Crosse last week and that's the big message. There is nothing more important across the globe in public health than getting people vaccinated against COVID and being able to be a part of that, at the end of the individual community level, is extraordinary," said Beck.
He said to be a part of AMI's work across the country is a phenomenal opportunity.
"It's really trying to make sure there is a comprehensive strategy to getting as many vaccinations completed as possible," said Beck. "The effort that AMI is supporting in the community based vaccination clinics, really is designed to be able to address some of the gaps that exist in the ability of the local health departments."
Beck explained that AMI will be running the clinic in it's entirety.
"AMI is running the clinics end to end. Everything from making sure we have the clinics fully supplied to being adequately staffed, making sure that we are available to provide second doses," said Beck. "Really our goal is to make sure that anyone coming to these community based vaccination clinics leaves knowing that they didn't just receive a vaccine, but they were truly cared for."
What's unique about AMI is that they recruit people from the community to work with them on their projects.
"When we bring on our staff and hire our staff, we are hiring locally. The clinic staff in Rock County is staffed by local folks within the county. Here in La Crosse, we have staff members now that are staffing this clinic that are part of the community here in La Crosse and I think it makes the clinic environment special in that regard," said Beck.
After these local community members are recruited and hired, no matter what role they play they go through a training process.
"We have a comprehensive training program and orientation program as we start each of these clinics so this week we have simply been focusing on our train-up and walk throughs before we go operation here in La Crosse," said Beck.
Meghan Buechel, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System, said this mass vaccination clinic is a big deal and it will help the community get vaccinated quicker.
"Ultimately, it is our goal with community partners to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, in an equitable manner so in doing this mass vaccination clinic, we will be able to do that quicker and more efficiently," said Buechel.
She said it's important for people to take advantage as soon as they become eligible.
"It's important that people take any opportunity to get vaccinated, whether that be at Gundersen, at a mass vaccination clinic," said Buechel. "That will really be our shot at resuming normalcy in the way we live our life."
Buechel explained that all three vaccine options are incredibly safe and all three do an effective job at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
The clinic will start by giving 200 vaccinations a day and La Crosse County Health Department hopes to get up to 1,000 each day.