MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s largest vaccine clinic at the Wisconsin Center, will shut down next month.
This comes as the threat of contracting the virus is far from over.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, otherwise known as FEMA, started running the site in mid-March, which meant more vaccine doses from the federal government and more staff.
But those federal resources were never meant to last forever. FEMA initially agreed to run the Wisconsin Center site for about 8 weeks. It’s staying on a few weeks extra, but will officially end its operation there on May 28.
“I think it might be too soon,” said Roberto Mendoza, who got his second shot at the Wisconsin Center Thursday. “There are still a lot of people who haven’t been vaccinated yet. It would be helpful to have the Wisconsin Center open longer, because it really is so quick and easy to come here and get vaccinated.”
Milwaukee’s Health Commissioner says FEMA’s decision is partly due to a substantial decrease in demand for the vaccine.
FEMA has the capacity to administer as many as 4,000 doses per day. But on average, only about half of them – or 2,000 shots - are given daily.
Milwaukee Health Department Nurse Valencia Mathis, who’s been administering shots at the Wisconsin Center since day one, has witnessed the decrease in demand first-hand.
“When I first started, I was probably giving more than 60 vaccines per day, now I'm lucky if I give 30,” said Mathis. “But there are more people working here now with FEMA, so that’s played a part too.”
After working through the main population groups in our state, part of the challenge is now convincing people who simply don’t feel comfortable getting the vaccine, to consider it.
“I know from discussions with even some of my family members, that they are kind of skeptical about getting the vaccine,” said Mary Albritton, 63, who got vaccinated at the Wisconsin Center Thursday. “People are fearful of what’s in the vaccine and its long-term effects.”
Albritton is trying to change their minds.
“Some people I know have passed away from the virus, and that has really taken a toll on a lot of families,” she said. “Anything I can do to protect myself and others, I’m happy to do it.”
Nurse Mathis sees education as an important part of her role too.
“Just being an example is really big,” she said. “Trying to educate people using evidence-based research, and teaching them how to find the right, correct info is the most important thing I can do.”
Milwaukee health leaders say they will be able to meet the demand for vaccinations at the Northwest and Southside Health Centers, as well as through mobile vaccine clinic “pop-up” events.
The Northwest Health Center is located at 7630 W. Mill Rd. The Southside Health Center is located at 1639 S. 23rd St.
The Wisconsin Center is not the only mass vaccination clinic closing in our area. Waukesha County is closing its Expo Center vaccination site on May 19.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services, along with local health departments, will begin using the CDC’s vaccine finder tool to help people more easily find an available vaccine provider near them. It’s vaccinefinder.org.
To find other vaccination sites in Milwaukee, click here.