New wave of Wisconsinites, including educators, can get COVID-19 vaccine

A new wave of Wisconsinites is now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, March 1 -- as part of Phase 1b. The list includes educators and child care workers, people enrolled in long-term Medicaid programs, some public-facing essential workers, non-front-line essential health care personnel, and residents and staff of congregate living settings. 

While everyone can sign up for their shots, the state is urging vaccinators to put those in education at the front of the line. 

COVID-19 vaccine administered at Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee

The vaccine is available at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee to anyone in K-12 or early childhood education who either works or lives in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Public Schools Special Education Teacher Christian Islas was among the first group to receive his shot Monday afternoon. 

"I think it’s really important, as the leaders, as the role models at the building, we need to first be healthy and well and reach our students and have them be healthy and well," Islas said. 

Like most MPS staff, Islas has not seen his second and third grade students since last March when instruction switched to virtual. 

"Even they’ve asked me, you know we hope to see you soon in person before the end of the school year," Islas said.

The Milwaukee Health Department's medical director said the city is receiving approximately 9,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week -- specifically for educators.

"Our main focus for the first half of March is on the education sector. And then we will be focusing more heavily on the rest of the Phase 1b eligible group," said Heather Parody.

An estimated 25,000 individuals qualify -- including day care workers like Christie Kessler. She has remained in the classroom -- and is relieved to no longer have to rely entirely on masks and hand washing to stay safe. 

"I’ve been wanting to get this for a while because I work with small children. And honestly, if I caught it and was asymptomatic and passed it on to one of my kids at the daycare, I would feel terrible. So I’m glad I finally got the shot," Kessler said.

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MPS is partnering with the Milwaukee Health Department to also vaccinate staff on March 9 and March 10 at North Division High School -- and March 11 and March 12 at South Division. 

Meanwhile, people in previously eligible groups, like those 65 and older, can still come to the Wisconsin Center to receive the vaccine.

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