MILWAUKEE - Everyone over age 65 in Wisconsin will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday but it could take a couple of months to inoculate the entire group of 700,000 people, state health officials said. At the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett said staff have completely changed the floorplan, ramping up weekly vaccinations from hundreds to thousands, focused on getting as many doses as they can.
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, as the nation paused to remember the 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19 over the last year, Milwaukee and Milwaukee County leaders said vaccination is our best path toward ending this pandemic.
"My goal is, as quickly as possible, is to get these vaccinations into as many arms in this city as humanly possible," said Barrett.
They're expanding efforts to do so. Starting Monday, Jan. 25, vaccinations at the Wisconsin Center will be offered every day to the designated groups which include those ages 65 and up with an appointment come Monday.
"We plan to request close to 5,000 doses for next week. So, our goal is again to continue to ramp up and expand, and we're of course dependent on what we receive," said Marlaina Jackson, interim commissioner of health.
Availability will be the next challenge. Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said 700,000 become eligible Monday but on average, the state receives just 70,000 doses per week, which are then divided across the state.
"As fast as we as a county and the health departments get vaccine, we'll be getting them into people's arms, and the faster we can do that in Milwaukee County, the better," said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
During a Tuesday press conference, health officials issued a familiar reminder. the vaccine is effective, but the need for social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands is unwavering.
"While we know that the vaccine prevents illness, as that is what the studies actually evaluated, it still is unclear if the vaccine actually prevents infection and transmission," said Dr. Weston.
Milwaukee residents can register and set up an appointment to be vaccinated as soon as next week -- starting Thursday, Jan. 21 by visiting the new Healthy MKE website.