MILWAUKEE - Getting shots into the arms of those who need it most -- adult individuals in Milwaukee County's most vulnerable communities will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, March 22.
Ten ZIP codes that house the county's most under-served populations have been identified. Health officials say focusing on such groups will help make vaccine distribution more equitable while addressing glaring racial disparities.
"The disparities are there, they are real and they are stark," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Data show Milwaukee County's most under-served ZIP codes also have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.
"In other words, the people in the neighborhoods who needed it the most were the ones getting it the least," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
CDC Social Vulnerability Index
Starting Monday, individuals who are 18 years of age or older and live in any of the 10 ZIP codes identified will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Those ZIP codes were chosen using the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index which examines poverty, access to transportation, and housing, among other factors.
"Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee have declared racism a public health crisis," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. "Utilizing the ZIP code data to expand our vaccine eligibility in targeted areas is a step in the right direction toward serving our underrepresented neighborhoods of color and instilling confidence that they will be treated with equity and respect in the health care system."
ZIP codes identified in Milwaukee County ZIP code program
As of last week, nearly 150,000 white individuals in Milwaukee County had been vaccinated, compared to only 25,000 Black individuals. The number is even lower for the Hispanic population, with under 14,000 shots into arms.
Health officials say they hope to see those numbers increase.
"At a minimum, we will be providing 2,000 doses per week at our community sites," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson.
Milwaukee County COVID-19 vaccination data
Health officials are also reminding people that they do not need health insurance to get the vaccine.
"Frankly, we don't care if you're insured, whether you're documented, we don't ask for any of that," Weston said. "There is no charge for vaccine, it is completely free."
COVID-19 vaccine registration options
The Kosciuszko Community Center located at 2201 S. 7th Street in Milwaukee will serve as the county's vaccination site for the ZIP code program. The city will be offering additional locations.
Vaccine appointments for the ZIP code program can be made by calling 414-286-6800.
Individuals can also register through Milwaukee County’s COVID-19 website.
Milwaukee residents will soon be able to register through the city's COVID-19 vaccine website, too.