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Milwaukee Health Officials Urge Eligible Residents To Beat the Rush, Get Vaccine Now

Chuck Quirmbach
People wait in line at Milwaukee North Division High School's vaccine clinic.

Gov. Tony Evers' decision Tuesday to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Wisconsin residents 16 or older starting April 5 will mean 100,000s of additional Milwaukee County residents will qualify for a shot. Tens of thousands more people elsewhere in southeastern Wisconsin will also become eligible.

Tuesday, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson predicted the city will be able to handle the additional demand for vaccine.

"We've been planning for it for a few weeks. We are planning to have additional appointments available starting on Monday, and we feel confident we'll be able to address this," she said.

Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson spoke to the news media Tuesday.

Johnson said Milwaukee will have more vaccine next week, not only at the Wisconsin Center downtown but at various community sites. Pharmacies that are part of a federal vaccine program are also supposed to get more of the medicine, and the state said more pharmacy partners have just been added.

However, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services cautioned that some areas of Wisconsin may have more demand than supply of vaccine and may have waiting lists. So, priority may go to people previously eligible like senior citizens, public facing essential workers and people with medical conditions.

Still, with eligibility about to dramatically expand, Dr. Ben Weston of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County Emergency Management, urged those who are eligible now but have been waiting for others to go ahead, should act this week.

"Now is your time to get vaccinated, before the door opens wider on Monday. So, if you're in one of the 10 highly vulnerable zip codes, please get vaccinated now. If you have a health condition, please get vaccinated now. And if you are 65 and older, please get vaccinated now. There are nearly 40,000, 40,000!, individuals 65 and older in Milwaukee County, who have not yet received a dose of the COVID vaccine," he said.

Chuck Quirmbach
Dr. Ben Weston, of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, during Tuesday's news briefing.

Weston also urged action because he says the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to go up locally and nationally. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Johnson called it a troubling development with significant consequences.

"As case numbers continue to increase, we'll see serious medical consequences, and sadly, more COVID deaths in Milwaukee," she said.

Johnson said the city will decide within two weeks whether to bring back more health restrictions on some venues.

Milwaukee County reports a 45% increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past week. Weston said that's likely because of a personal loosening of health precautions and the presence of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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