By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The Wisconsin Center has been a centralized location for vaccine distribution since the rollout began earlier this year. During Milwaukee County’s weekly update briefings on COVID-19, City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson discussed the potential closing date for the center.
“Tentatively, the Milwaukee Health Department and FEMA will be closing the Wisconsin Center on Friday, May 28,” Johnson said. “This is five weeks away and as planned.”
The Wisconsin Center was previously run by the Milwaukee Health Department before FEMA or the Federal Emergency Management Agency took over.
The Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave., was one of Milwaukee’s main vaccination hubs, but it was never meant to be permanent. The city and country’s other vaccination sites include the Kosciuszko Community Center, 2201 S. 7th St., the Northwest Health Center, 6431 N. 76th St., and the Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St.
Johnson said that an average of 350 first doses are being administered at the Wisconsin Center on a daily basis. She added that the center has the capacity to administer 2,000 first doses a day. It initially saw close to 3,000 people a day when vaccine distribution began, with a capacity of 4,000. Since its current average is substantially lower, it made sense to close the vaccination site as scheduled.
With the closing of the Wisconsin Center as a vaccination site, the Health Department’s resources will go toward the Northwest Health Center and the Southside Health Center, Johnson said.
The health centers can administer between 400 to 600 doses a day, she said.
“We are currently averaging less 150 or 300 at each respectively,” she said. “This change has no impact on state supply. We will no longer receive additional federal dosage through FEMA but there is ample state supply to meet our demand.”
The current health centers will take anyone from Wisconsin who wants to be vaccinated, Johnson said, adding that the health department plans to extend its mobile testing sites.
At the moment, there is no concern that the closing of the Wisconsin Center will affect people’s ability to get a vaccine.
“If the demand is there, we will make sure we have the ability to have vaccinations,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “But I think everyone understands, if the people aren’t coming those resources should go somewhere else.”
Barrett added that if the lines start growing and people start coming to get their vaccine at the Wisconsin Center, then the city will make it feasible.
While the Health Department originally anticipated having to expand its lease with the Wisconsin Center, the original plan was always to end the site in late May or early June.
Johnson noted that the Wisconsin Center has been a successful vaccine distribution site throughout its run. There are plenty of other places for people to receive the vaccine, she said.
“I am confident that if someone wants the vaccine in this city, they can get it,” Johnson said.
“I don’t see this as us hitting a wall, as much as moving to another phase,” Dr. Ben Weston said. “We’re entering a new phase and we’re modifying our practices to meet that new phase.”
The center will remain open until Friday, May 28. Individuals will be able to receive their first dose through that end date and will be advised where to seek their second dose.
For more information on where to receive a vaccine, go to Milwaukee.gov/covidvax.