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Commissioner of Health Kirsten Johnson talks vaccines for children and booster shots

A nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 19.
A nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its two year anniversary. In that time, we’ve experienced highs and lows — moments where the end seemed near, and resurgences that made it clear it wasn’t. As this pandemic, especially recently, has been defined by its ever changing nature we ask the question, where do we stand now?

Commissioner of Health Kirsten Johnson from the City of Milwaukee Health Department, says we still have a high burden of disease in Milwaukee despite restrictions loosening in recent months.

“I think the increase over the summer was largely driven by the delta variant, again, we are seeing cases decline but if we have learned anything it’s that this pandemic is not predictable,” says Johnson.

Johnson recalled that last year at the start of the winter cases did go up, but quickly pointed out that then we didn’t have vaccines. So discerning what to expect this winter could be harder than anticipated.

She also brought up that another challenge that will make this winter unique is the introduction of booster shots — which she said will largely be available in Milwaukee.

“The Milwaukee Health Department is offering all three boosters — J&J, Moderna and Pfizer” says Johnson. “Currently individuals who are eligible are really anyone who is forward facing in their job, so interacting with the public, individuals who are older in age are also eligible…but anyone over the age of 18 working in a role with the public is eligible.”

Reiterating what has been the suggested protocol for most of the pandemic, Johnson says that wearing a mask is crucial for protecting yourself, and those around you.

Recently the Milwaukee Health Department has announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available for Children 5-11 for the first time since vaccines were made widely available.

“All the healthcare systems in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are anticipating providing vaccines for children, but we’re also working with the school districts, private schools, to set up clinics specific for children, staffing clinics for kids to make sure it’s available at school sites,” says Johnson.

While Johnson is not at liberty to disclose the information, she did promise that the Milwaukee Health Department is working on putting together some “fun” incentives for children who get vaccinated.

Incentives to get individuals vaccinated are something many health organizations have been putting together, not just for children, but for adults too.

“We currently have a vaccine incentive for anyone who hasn’t received their second dose,” says Johnson. “If you haven’t gotten your second dose, we encourage you to get your second dose, if you are from the city of Milwaukee you can get a $25 gift card for your second dose.”

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