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Milwaukee-Area COVID-19 Vaccinations Begin For Some 65 And Over, Others Have To Wait

Chuck Quirmbach
Dr. Jen Freiheit speaks to the news media in Kenosha on April 29, 2020.

One of the largest health care providers in the area says it will begin Tuesday to give the COVID-19 vaccine to some of its primary care patients who are 65 and older. 

The Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin network said on Saturday, it started inviting seniors with a primary care doctor in the network to get the vaccine. Froedtert said it expected as of late Monday that 15,000 patients would have an appointment to get a shot at one of seven vaccine clinics.

Froedtert said it will next offer the vaccine to seniors without a doctor in its network. But the timing will depend on vaccine allocation from the state.

The vaccine supply issue continues to vex public health departments, as well. Kenosha County Health Officer Dr. Jen Freiheit says nursing homes in the county have been vaccinating their residents for several weeks. 

Health care providers that have vaccine have started to immunize other seniors. But Freiheit says her community is well short of the nearly 25,000 doses it needs to vaccinate everyone 65 and older.

“So, it creates a bit of an equity issue, that those lucky few who are able to sign up and get a vaccine appointment through some of our providers, and there's others who will try continuously to get appointments until we can get much more vaccine to be able to handle a much larger population there,” says Freiheit.

She says Kenosha County is working on setting up a call center for people who don't have email or the internet as a way to schedule a vaccine appointment. 

But Freiheit says it all goes back to supply. "So, for example, in Kenosha County, we are not setting up appointments for next week yet, because we won't know until this weekend how much vaccine we're getting,” she says.

At the rate the county is currently receiving the vaccine, it will take several weeks to immunize all its seniors, according to Freiheit.

"If the feds start sending more to the state of Wisconsin, and in turn we start getting more vaccine in the county, we will ramp up and give those doses immediately,” she says.

A few days ago, Milwaukee announced that except for city residents who have a primary care provider with vaccine, Milwaukeeans 65 and older who want to be immunized will have to wait until at least next week.

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