In a move aimed at addressing racial disparity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, all residents age 16 and over who reside in Milwaukee’s most vulnerable neighborhoods are now eligible to be vaccinated. Eligibility extends to those who live in the 53204, 53205, 53206, 53209, 53215, 53216, 53218, 53223, 53224 and 53233 ZIP codes.
The Milwaukee Health Department is expanding its vaccination efforts in the ten Zip codes. This includes operating community vaccination clinics at North Division High School (1011 W. Center St.) and South Division High School (1515 W. Lapham Blvd.).
These sites are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until April 19. No appointment or pre-registration is necessary. Bilingual services are offered at South Division for Spanish-speaking residents.
“This step is important for communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Increased eligibility will increase the numbers of people vaccinated in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.”
Barrett said he hopes the effort will lead to higher acceptance of the vaccine in the targeted neighborhoods.
“We know the chronic stress brought on by structural racism impacts an individual’s overall health and our communities of color have experienced this prior to as well as throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Eligible Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee residents in these ZIP codes can make an appointment on the city’s vaccine website at Milwaukee.gov/covidvax, or by calling 414-286-6800.
They can also visit covidmke.com to make an appointment at Milwaukee County’s Kosciuszko Community Center, 2201 S 7th St. on Milwaukee’s South Side.
“We’ve seen a shift in registration that is more reflective of the racial makeup of Milwaukee County,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said. “This is critical because many of our Brown and Black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.”
The ZIP code program’s aim is to “increase access to life-saving vaccines in the most equitable way possible,” Crowley said. “We should not let technology, transportation or other barriers stand in the way of our most vulnerable residents’ access to this vaccine.”
Vaccines were administered to 434 people at North Division and 411 at South Division on Monday.
“We have a challenge as leaders and policy makers to make sure the distribution to vaccinations is done in an equitable fashion,” Barrett said. “That’s the whole rationale behind this program and why we’ve set up these separate community vaccination sites.”
At the same time, vaccines continue to be administered at the Wisconsin Center for eligible Milwaukee residents.
“We have surpassed 50,000 vaccinations at this location. That’s an important and exciting milestone,” Barrett said.
The Wisconsin Center has been a “stellar performer” in vaccine distribution, he added.
“I have been involved in government for a long time and I can honestly say that we have never gotten more compliments than we have received about the vaccination process at the Wisconsin Center,” Barrett said.
Beginning this week, those eligible to receive the vaccine has expanded to include those with health issues such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater are also eligible.
Appointments are required at the Wisconsin Center. To schedule a vaccination there, go to milwaukee.gov/covidvax or call the vaccine hotline at 414-286-6800.
The city also continues to operate mobile vaccination sites throughout Milwaukee.
As vaccine distribution continues to gain steam, new COVID-19 cases have begun to climb a bit in Milwaukee County.
“We are starting to see some concerning signs of an increase in cases of COVID, both nationally as well as in our community,” Weston said.
As of Tuesday, Milwaukee County was experiencing an average of 77 news cases per day, compared with a low of 60 cases last week, and one death every two days. Thirty states reported an increase in new daily cases of COVID-19 this week compared with last week, Weston said.
“We saw the first national increase in cases in nearly two months,” he said. “We know with the more contagious variants widespread in our country and likely in our community an increase in cases in likely.”
Getting people vaccinated will be key in controlling future spread of COVID-19, he said.
About 26% of Milwaukee County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 15% have completed the vaccination series. Nearly 10% of Milwaukee residents have been fully vaccinated, including 63% of those age 65 and older.
“Although encouraging, it’s not yet high enough to have any sort of impact on the spread of disease in the event of another surge in cases,” Weston said.