Milwaukee County community vaccination efforts show promise

The city of Milwaukee reached a milestone Tuesday, March 23 as officials announced more than 50,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered at the Wisconsin Center.

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency took over the Wisconsin Center site so local health officials could expand vaccination capacity elsewhere.

While appointments are booked up at the Wisconsin Center for the next several days, officials said Tuesday there are still plenty of shots available at the two free walk-in clinics that opened Monday.

The goal of those community clinics is to improve racial disparities among those receiving the vaccine as more confirmed cases of COVID-19 emerge as well.

Milwaukee County's vaccine ZIP code program is already showing promising signs that the most vulnerable residents are shooting up to get their shots.

"We’ve seen a shift in registration that is more reflective of the racial makeup of Milwaukee," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Free, walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic at North Division High School

The free clinics opened Monday at North Division High School and South Division High School. More than 800 shots were administered to residents 16 and older from 10 ZIP codes; the areas chosen rank highest on the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index.

Crowley, who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, said the areas being targeted through the program are also the neighborhoods with some of the lowest vaccination rates.

"This is critical since many of our Black and brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by this process," Crowley said.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley receives the COVID-19 vaccine

Still, officials said the two sites have the capacity to administer a combined 1,200 shots per day. They say outreach efforts will be key in reaching that threshold.

"Yesterday, we had a meeting with Souls to the Polls, that’s a group that’s very active with the church community," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "We had a meeting with Voces de la Frontera, in hopes that they can help mobilize in these underserved communities."

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As vaccinations ramp up, cases are increasing locally -- prompting new concerns of a spring surge.

"We’re seeing a subtle but stable increase in cases over the last week from a low of about 60 cases to 77 new cases per day," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Weston blames that increase on more relaxed attitudes about mitigation measures, along with more contagious strains of the virus.

"Remember, you do not want to mix unvaccinated people from a household with unvaccinated from another household," Weston said.

The two walk-in clinics will be open through April 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

At the Wisconsin Center, appointments must be scheduled in advance.

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