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Milwaukee clinic works to vaccinate American Indian population, address disparities in COVID-19 among community

Posted at 11:49 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 19:21:00-05

MILWAUKEE — The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center in Milwaukee has expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination.

They are now inviting anyone over the age of 18 that can prove they are a tribal member or descendant to sign up for a vaccine. The facility is holding a vaccine clinic until Thursday, March 11 for nearly 400 people to receive the vaccination.

The center says they know that the pandemic has hit the American Indian community disproportionately hard. The community is the 3rd in cases per capita, 2nd in hospitalizations, and first in deaths.

“It’s been devastating especially in families that have multi-generational homes. Now that it’s here [the vaccine], we have a great opportunity to not only provide the opportunity but the access for individuals to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Lyle Ignace, CEO of the center.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, American Indians die from COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other race.

There is a significant percentage of the American Indian population that has suffered from COVID-19. Just over 6,300 or 12 percent of the American Indian population in the state has tested positive for COVID-19.

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The center is able to make their own eligibility requirements because they receive the vaccine doses directly from the federal government and have more freedom on how to administer them than the state does.

Marquette grad student Cameron Roman waited to get his vaccine at the clinic Tuesday. “I don’t have any chronic or underlying conditions so I wouldn’t have been eligible under the previous policies,” he says.

He didn’t want to miss the chance to get vaccinated.

“It’s been really valuable and I think it’s really important when we do have these opportunities we are able to take advantage of them,” Roman said.

The clinic is expanding shots to all enrolled tribal members or descendants who are Milwaukee county residents that are 18 or older, regardless of what group you might fit into according to the state.

To get on the list, you'll have to pre-register by calling (414) 316-3737 or registering online.

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