Community health centers across Milwaukee now have the COVID-19 vaccine, currently available to people 65 and older and health care workers. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he hopes that will mean more access for people of color.
Barrett said trust has been a concern when it comes to people of color considering getting the vaccine. He said it makes a difference that they can now go to places that they already have relationships with, like the Sixteenth Street Health Centers.
“I felt, and others felt, that it was really, really important that we have vaccines in the neighborhoods where people go and are trusted and trust their health care professional,” said Barrett.
Milwaukee County leaders hope that if people of color can get the vaccine where they are most comfortable — more will. County Executive David Crowley said there are real disparities in who has gotten vaccinated so far.
“About 60% of the vaccines that have been administered have been to white residents here in the state of Wisconsin. Yet we know that the virus has disproportionately impacted many, many communities of color,” he said.
Still, there’s not enough vaccine available for those who are eligible.
Marlaina Jackson is the interim health commissioner for the city of Milwaukee. She said changes at the state level will soon allow health organizations to request two weeks’ worth of vaccines instead of one. Jackson said that will allow for better planning.
Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County, said the rush is on to try and get people vaccinated as a new strain of COVID-19 that has been found here is proving twice as contagious and more deadly.
“So starting in March, we might be seeing this becoming a more dominant strain and causing a new spike to come. So we’re really up against a timetable here to try to vaccinate people as fast as we can to blunt that spike as much as possible,” explained Weston.
Wisconsin now leads the country in the percentage of people getting vaccinated daily.
Wednesday evening, local health experts will host a virtual town hall meeting hoping to answer questions that people have about the COVID-19 vaccine and do away with myths.