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With More Than A Third Of Adults Vaccinated In Milwaukee County, Officials Try New Outreach

Michelle Maternowski
As of Thursday, more than a third of Milwaukee County adults have received the COVID vaccine.

County officials announced Thursday that the mass vaccination site at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee will close in five weeks — on Friday, May 28.

City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said officials had always planned to wrap up at the site at the end of May or early June, but demand has also dwindled.

The entrance to the city of Milwaukee COVID-19 vaccination site at the Wisconsin Center.
Chuck Quirmbach
The entrance to the city of Milwaukee COVID-19 vaccination site at the Wisconsin Center.

“On average, we're administering 350 first doses a day at the Wisconsin Center, and we have capacity for 2,000 first doses per day at the Wisconsin Center as it stands,” she said.

Other Milwaukee County vaccination sites are also seeing more supply than demand.

But the county isn’t “hitting a wall,” it’s entering a new phase, Dr. Ben Weston said. He's director of medical services of the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“So the phase of people who are eager, but also people who have the means, people who are able to travel to a vaccine site, people who are able to have childcare to allow them to go, are able to take time off of work to allow them to go, I think we've reached the end of that phase of eagerness and ability,” Weston explained.

“And now we’re entering a new phase,” he continued. “And we’re modifying our practice to meet that new phase. And so, the Wisconsin Center may not be the best way to meet that new phase.”

Weston said the new phase is about meeting people where they are, like setting up free mobile vaccination clinics at churches, businesses and community gatherings, and boosting community sites like the Northwest and Southside Health Centers.

Milwaukee County has set up vaccine clinics at places ranging from a brewery, to the Lake Express ferry, to the Mexican Consulate.

The county is working with the Brewers to vaccinate seasonal staff and will also be vaccinating fans at the Bucks game on May 2.

And, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made an offer to employers and community members. “If you're interested, and if you can get us 50, 60, 70 arms, give us a call,” he said. “We will work it because we are working to reduce barriers and make it easy for everyone in Milwaukee to get vaccinated.”

After the Wisconsin Center closes in five weeks, the state will no longer receive additional federal doses through FEMA.

But Johnson, the city’s health commissioner, said there is ample state supply of the vaccine to meet demand.

Maayan Silver is a WUWM news reporter.
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