MILWAUKEE - Teachers and child care professionals become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine March 1, with health departments still trying to vaccinate the last eligible group, Wisconsinites age 65 and older.
City of Milwaukee health officials say around 20,000 teachers, educators and child care professionals will receive priority over the next two weeks, hopeful that strategy can get teachers back in the classroom after nearly a year at home.
With nearly all of the city's health care and first responders accounted for and between 30 and 40% of seniors vaccinated, the focus turns to teachers.
"We're looking at doing about 7,500 doses at the Wisconsin Center this coming week, and that'll be the largest that we've ever done within one particular week, so we're excited," said Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson. "We're staffed up. We're ready to go."
Jackson said 15,000 doses over the next two weeks covers about 75% of the city's educators, which she hopes has a ripple effect on students who've been learning from home for almost a year.
"Particularly, a large population of young Black and Latinx minority children are in MPS," said Jackson. "Really wanted to make sure that those teachers can get vaccinated so that they can get back to school."
Phase 1B comes as a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has received emergency FDA approval. The single-dose shot is easier to store, and Dr. John Raymond at the Medical College of Wisconsin says it's worthwhile.
Dr. John Raymond
"This is a remarkably effective vaccine," said Dr. Raymond. "It's 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, but it's 85% at preventing the most severe disease."
All this as public health groups are working with community stakeholders like churches and barbershops on vaccine education, hoping outreach from familiar faces can help more people get their shot.
"It lowers anxieties that they may have because these are people that are in and of the community," said Lorraine Lathen, Jump at the Sun Consultants president. "They're trusted."
The Milwaukee Health Department is also providing the vaccine to private and parochial schools so they can innoculate teachers and staff. If you're interested in getting the shot, you can sign up online.