Milwaukee Opens Convention Center To Begin Public Employee COVID-19 Vaccinations

City Expecting 800 Doses This Week, After Only Receiving 100 So Far

Two men in face masks stand by a sign that says "COVID-19 Vaccine Entrance"
Dr. Nick Tomaro, left, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, right, guide reporters on a tour of the new COVID-19 vaccine site Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Milwaukee is expected to receive about 800 doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week and will continue vaccinating public employees. The city started vaccinating employees considered to be at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 last week.

So far, the city has received 100 doses — much less than other communities.

By comparison, more than 1,400 shots have been administered to frontline health care workers, not affiliated with a hospital, in the Madison area.

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he’s confident the city will receive the doses it needs from the state Department of Health Services.

“Our numbers are going to increase dramatically,” Barrett said. “This is an effort to do this as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possibly and as safely as possible. We feel very, very confident, and the state was very good to work with.”

The city plans to continue to ramp up the amount of doses it requests from the state and will ask for approximately 3,000 doses next week, Barrett said.

Milwaukee Fire Department emergency responders received half of the city’s initial allocation of 100 Pfizer dozes last week. The other half went to frontline health department workers.

The 800 doses arriving this week in staggered shipments will be given to firefighters, emergency responders and health department workers, Barrett said.

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Vaccinations are expected to begin taking place at the Wisconsin Center District in downtown Milwaukee beginning Tuesday morning.

“Operationally, it’s ready to go, although there is some work that needs to be done in making sure all the appropriate documents are signed,” Barrett said Monday during a press tour of the facility.

The convention center will be staffed by the health department with assistance from the fire department.

“Tremendous teamwork, tremendous coordination all being done in real-time,” Barrett said.

The Wisconsin Center was chosen because it was easily able to accommodate the week-long presidential recount in November, which drew several hundred people to the ballroom.

Dr. Nick Tomaro, with the Milwaukee Health Department, said he’s expecting the Wisconsin Center will be open through May 2 for vaccinations, but it could be open as long as June.

Tomaro said as the vaccination campaign continues and begins to include the public, there could be more sites and possibly a drive-thru set up downtown.

“Within this vaccination campaign, we have to be very fluid, we have to be very dynamic until we find the solution that will work with different phases” Tomaro said.