City of Milwaukee frontline health workers and fire department begin vaccination process

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the city’s frontline workers will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines as soon as Thursday, Jan. 7. On Wednesday, 100 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived for the city and 800 more will trickle in beginning Monday, Jan. 11.

The city of Milwaukee became an eligible vaccinator by the state on Dec. 28. The 100 vaccines that arrived will be split, 50 will go to frontline workers within the city’s health department and 50 to the fire department. The workers are all part of the 1A category.

“Those who are closest to the public, as well as laboratory staff who deal with live samples on a regular basis, as well as individuals at our testing sites,” said Marlaina Jackson, interim commissioner at the Milwaukee Health Department.

Mayor Barrett says he wants vaccines to be up and running as soon as possible. The Pfizer vaccines must be used within 120 hours if not kept in a deep freezer.

”In addition to this, we will receive 800 next week and again this is something we’re actually pleased with. They will come in staggered shipments and that will allow us again to work around the freezer issue,” said Mayor Barrett.

Marlaina Jackson says the vaccinations will happen at health department sites for the first 100 doses until a permanent site is ready. The vaccinations come at a time where the state and city is seeing a continual increase in percent positives within the last week. The 7-day average percent positivity as of Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Wisconsin sits at 32-percent according to DHS.

“We anticipated that spike,” said Jackson. “We’re going to continue to watch it closely and make adjustments as that kind of unfolds.”

“If it stays here at this point it’s not terrible, but if it continues to go up then you know we don’t want a repeat of what we saw in November,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director for infection prevention at UW Health.

Mayor Barrett says 60-percent of the fire department so far has signed up to get vaccinated, but he expects a much higher compliance rate in the near future. The CDC says so far less than 74,000 Wisconsinites have gotten immunized.

“We know that some of that infrastructure has been challenging to achieve, but I think from the standpoint of getting health care workers vaccinated, I think that piece has worked well,” said Dr. Safdar.

Dr. Safdar hopes vaccinations do not stay at this pace.

“I think it largely depends upon the supply and if we get the supply that we expect to get then I think it would be all hands on deck to get as many people vaccinated,” Dr. Safdar added.

“Just the very beginning with 100 now, 800 coming next week—and hopefully that number will multiply and multiply and multiply,” said Mayor Barrett.

Mayor Barrett says he hopes the city will be able to move on to phase 1B of vaccinations by the end of January.

The state is still delegating who is included in the next phase.

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