Milwaukee ZIP code program in full swing to increase vaccination rates in communities of color

vaccine milwaukee
Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 19:38:18-04

MILWAUKEE — Part of Wisconsin’s vaccine blitz is prioritizing zip codes in the city of Milwaukee.

If you live in any of these 10 zip codes, you are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine: 53204, 53205, 53206, 53209, 53215, 53216, 53218, 53223, 53224 and 53233.

To make the vaccine more accessible, the county has opened two additional vaccination sites at North Division and South Division High School. And for the first time Monday, people living in those priority zip codes lined up outside North Divison to get the Pfizer vaccine, without needing to make an appointment.

53215 residents rush to get vaccinated after zip code sees highest case count in Milwaukee County

Statistics show the 53215 ZIP code has been devastated by coronavirus over the past year with the most cases in Milwaukee County. Nearly 1 out of every 6 residents there have tested positive. That’s why the state is following CDC guidance in saying their time is now for vaccines.

Ethiel Vega-Padilla thought he would be waiting at least another month to become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, but he rushed to the walk-in clinic at South Division High School Monday after learning he qualifies because of where he lives.

“I didn’t know that {ZIP} code in itself was so affected by the positive cases, so when I heard that I kind of made that decision for myself to get vaccinated,” he said.

Vega-Padilla resides in the 53215 zip code. The largely Hispanic community is highlighted in red on this map of Milwaukee County because nearly 10,000 of its residents have tested positive.

vaccine milwaukee
Vega-Padilla resides in the 53215 zip code. The largely Hispanic community is highlighted in red on this map of Milwaukee County because nearly 10,000 of its residents have tested positive.

“I understand from the standpoint of living there, the resources aren’t as prevalent as they are in other {ZIP} codes,” Vega-Padilla said.

About 16 percent of residents in the 53215 zip code have had confirmed cases, which is far higher than the statewide average of 9.8 percent.

Nick Tomaro with the Milwaukee Health Department said they chose South Division for one of the city’s walk-in clinics in part because Latinos who live there have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“We have an area in the city that has been under-vaccinated and is more vulnerable and so these are the places we want to be,” he said.

Jose Rivera also qualified to get vaccinated because he lives in 53215, but he did so Monday to protect his sister Carmen Lerma. Carmen was the first coronavirus patient in Wisconsin to successfully receive a double-lung transplant to survive.

“If I wanted to go say hi to her and hug her, I need to go do a test, I need to follow up, I need to show her husband,” Rivera said.

Rivera said Carmen spent seven months in the hospital fighting for her life. Now she’s at home trying to get back to full strength while leaning on loved ones for support.

“So far she’s looking healthy, she’s talking healthy, she’s walking healthy,” he said. "She’s trying to live a normal life but with this pandemic, no one’s living a normal life.”

Vaccinations at North Division and South Division High School on Monday

The walk-in clinic at South Division High School is making sure the language barrier doesn’t deter Hispanic residents from going through the process.

"This is just one step that we’re taking to make sure that some of our most vulnerable residents in historically underserved communities that we have here in Milwaukee are getting access to this vaccination," said Milwaukee County Executive, David Crowley.

"No matter what color you are, whether you have a disability or not, it doesn't matter, you can go to one of the sites to get vaccinated," said Crowley.

"I just took a half-day half a day off work to get this shot so it's important to me," said resident Dwayne Stewart.

"It’s been crazy, but I got a feeling that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel," said another resident, Margaret Carter.

"As of last week, 150,000 white Milwaukeeans across the county already obtained a COVID-19 vaccine shot while only 14,000 Latinos or Latin X Milwaukeeans had obtained theirs," said District 8 Alderwoman, JoCasta Zamarripa.

Which is why residents say it's vital that people get their vaccinations in order to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

"I had felt very nervous, but I made up my mind to take the shot to protect myself and my son," said resident Lynn Crump.

Health officials say they expect to administer between 500 and 600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine each day at North Division High School which will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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