Milwaukee County Mayors Want Answers On State’s Vaccine Distribution

Wisconsin is now one of the leaders in the nation for the average number of coronavirus vaccines being given daily. But many communities across the state say they still aren’t getting enough of the shots.  

The mayors of several cities in Milwaukee County want the state Department of Health Services to explain the allocation formula. They believe their communities are continuously underserved.

“Our health department’s phones are ringing off the hook, and they can’t tell people when we’re going to have vaccines,” said Franklin Mayor Steve Olson. “It’s the lack of information from the state that is just handcuffing everybody and making this whole thing a joke.”

The mayors discussed vaccine distribution this week during a meeting of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council — a group that includes the mayor, village president or administrator from each of Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities.

“We are the largest county, one-sixth of the state,” said Bryan Kennedy, mayor of Glendale. “We really don’t know the process at the state as to why the requests are not for what we’ve asked for.”

Ann Christiansen, director of the North Shore Health Department, said the requests that are being put in for vaccine are either minimally allocated or not allocated at all.

Christiansen, who represents seven health departments, said this week she requested 5,280 doses and received a little over 2,000, or 41 percent.

“I suspect that is the story for health care systems and pharmacies as well,” she said.

Christiansen said with first responders, health care workers and people 65 and older all eligible for the vaccine, it’s a large portion of the state’s population, which has been one of the reasons rollout has been slow.

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“Capacity is certainly growing, but with the allocations we are stuck at this stage,” she said.

Christiansen said Milwaukee County has reached out to the federal government to open a federally-designated site and DHS for a state-designated site. But are waiting to hear back from both governments.

The city of Milwaukee’s health department is vaccinating about 3,000 people a week at the Wisconsin Center, but has capacity for 10,000.

During a call with media on Tuesday, DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said a population formula was recently added so vaccine distribution would be more equitable.

The Milwaukee County mayors say they plan on finding out more from DHS this week and will also draft a letter to the state expressing their concerns.

Meanwhile, some pharmacies in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin have been denied getting any vaccine this week.

Willems Van Dijk said that’s because there were too many requests across the state and distributors that needed less than 50 doses were denied.  

“I would love to have vaccine in every single pharmacy, every local health department, every clinic but given the amount of vaccine we have, we just can’t have it everywhere,” Willems Van Dijk said. “It also goes to making sure we are distributing the vaccine equitably across the state. We have a very high number of vaccine distributors in Dane County, which means not all of them are not going to get the vaccine.”