'Often overlooked:' Expanding vaccine opportunities for vets, homeless

It may seem like opportunities to get the COVID-19 vaccine are popping up left and right, but some local leaders worry that vulnerable communities are still being overlooked. New changes and clinics announced on Tuesday, April 6 will increase opportunities for veterans and their families, and homeless individuals to get vaccinated. 

The Milwaukee VA Medical Center announced it has opened vaccination appointments to all veterans, regardless of enrollment status, along with their spouses and caregivers.

Since its vaccination efforts began, the medical center has reached more than 20,000 area veterans.

"This is the one thing we've been able to do to be able to say we are moving towards an end," said Milwaukee VA Medical Center Chief of Pharmacy Kim Bell. "We always joked, initially with the employee clinic and then moving into the veteran clinic, that it’s the happiest place in the hospital." 

That happiness is now reaching even more with the recently-enacted SAVE LIVES Act, which authorized VA medical centers to vaccinate anyone who has served in the military -- active-duty, reserve or national guard -- regardless of their time in service, status, or character of discharge.

Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee

The act also includes spouses, caregivers and recipients of benefits through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Appointments are required for vaccinations. Appointments can be made between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays by calling 414-384-2000, ext. 42053 -- or in person at the medical center, 5000 W. National Ave.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

Those making appointments are asked to complete this form and bring it with them to their appointment.

Vaccinations are provided at no charge, and there are no administration fees.

Homeless shelter opens pop-up vaccination clinic

Across town near 14th Street and Vliet Street at Repairers of the Breach, a refuge and resource center for homeless adults, Executive Director Rev. James West Jr. is inviting homeless men and women who are 18 and older to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a walk-in clinic Wednesday, April 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

"They often feel like they are overlooked in society," West said. "I think by them coming here, a place that feeds them, a place that shelters them...they feel comfortable."

Rev. James West Jr.

The clinic will provide a one-stop-shop, in partnership with the Milwaukee Health Department, where those in need can feel welcome -- and don't have to worry about returning for a second shot.

"When you don't have housing it's very unstable, and your everyday job is just to survive on the streets," said West. "We just want no man and no woman left behind."

Repairers of the Breach is located at 1335 W. Vliet Street. Homeless individuals do not need to register for Wednesday morning's clinic. Walk-ins are welcome. 

COVID-19 vaccine resources & more

Milwaukee Health Department info on COVID-19 vaccine

Facts about the vaccine

HealthyMKE.com -- sign-up to receive a text or email alert when the Vaccine Connector tool is ready with information on local COVID-19 vaccine providers available to you

Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 vaccine registry 

Are you eligible?

FAQs about COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine data

CLICK HERE to view the Milwaukee County COVID-19 dashboard.

CLICK HERE to view the latest COVID-19 totals (updated daily at 2 p.m.) from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

CoronavirusNow.com: A Fox Television Stations initiative to provide you with the most up-to-date national and international news on COVID-19.Helpful phone numbers

About COVID-19 (from the CDC)

Milwaukee County virus cases rising; UK variant, kids of concern

Milwaukee County's latest COVID-19 case count shows an average of 117 new infections per day -- nearly a 100% increase over the past three weeks.

Meet the people behind the masks at vaccine site in Milwaukee

For nearly a month, people from all across the country and federal government were mobilized to Milwaukee to administer thousands of COVID-19 vaccines.