MILWAUKEE — FEMA staff are now assisting health workers in administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee - assistance that will be vital in helping the state reach its target of at least 7,000 doses administered at the facility a week.
The assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency began at the Wisconsin Center, at 400 W. Wisconsin Ave., on Monday.
Regarding the Wisconsin Center effort, Gov. Evers said that “this mass vaccination clinic can help with the larger population while allowing our partners at the city and county levels to focus on getting the vaccine to more vulnerable populations in harder to reach areas of their communities.”
Milwaukee County's COVID-19 dashboard shows that more than 225,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered so far.
The state's dashboard shows about 18.8 percent of the county's residents have received at least one dose. A number of Wisconsin's 72 counties outpace Milwaukee County in that percentage.
According to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement: “FEMA’s work here in Milwaukee is a valuable addition to our efforts. The new people and resources help expand our capacity, and, importantly, allows us to redeploy local vaccinators to underserved and under-vaccinated areas of the city."
Milwaukee County's COVID-19 dashboard showed as of last Wednesday 148,347 doses were administered to people who are white. The number of doses dropped to 25,118 for people who are black and 13,870 for Hispanics and Latinos. It also noted 22,323 doses went to people who did not indicate a race or ethnicity.
"Those people who have really seen greater disparities in terms of infection rates of COVID but also deaths, we know that those same people are not the ones getting vaccine. Getting vaccine into those communities is critically important for us at this point in time. We want to make sure if there is a surge, which we're all really hoping there is not, that those communities are protected," said Milwaukee's Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson.
City health officials are working with Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. and Greater New Birth Church to open a new community vaccine site at the church, in an effort to improve access to vaccines.
"I think it's a good idea and I think the more people to get vaccinated the better the quicker we can get back to normal life," said Lisa Hannah who lives near the church and believes it will make a difference.
"It makes me feel like there's hope. There's hope and the hope comes from knowing that the vaccines could be coming closer to us."
With FEMA moving in to the Wisconsin Center, vaccinations will expand to eligible groups who do not live or work in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Health Department said it intends to hold a minimum of two community vaccination sites per day moving forward.