178 Walgreens stores in Wisconsin to begin administering COVID-19 vaccine
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said 178 Walgreens stores will get a total of 17,800 doses from the federal government, in addition to the state's normal allocation.
"It is a high percentage of stores, but not every store, and so it's important for individuals to recognize that many stores will have the vaccine but not all of them," said Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager for DHS' Division of Public Health.
DHS said the stores will be centered in underserved communities to help combat disparities. Data shows 2.9 percent of both the Black and Latino populations in Wisconsin have been vaccinated, compared to 10.4 percent of the white population. Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said the partnership with Walgreens can help improve those metrics.
“A number of Walgreens in Milwaukee are neighborhood access points," Johnson said. "They’re easy to get to by bike, by bus, by walking. And so it presents an opportunity for those who live in underserved communities, particularly communities of color, to have better access to the COVID-19 vaccination.”
Each Walgreens store that is involved in the program will receive an average of 100 doses.
"We still have hundreds of thousands of people to vaccinate, and 18,000 a week is is going to get us there sooner. But I don't think I can quite classify it as fast yet," said Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.
The vaccines are only available for those who are eligible, which includes health care workers, first responders and people who are 65 and older.
More than a third of people who are 65 and older in Wisconsin have been vaccinated, according to state data.
Lisa Lamkins, advocacy director of federal issues for AARP Wisconsin, said some others have had their appointments canceled due to supply issues.
"We know folks are frustrated, but I think getting the vaccine doses into a Walgreens where ... it's a place they're familiar with going to get shots -- I think that will just help and help increase the capacity," Lamkins said.
Willems Van Dijk said there still are not enough vaccines to keep up with the demand.
"What we really need are more vaccines. And that will come through better manufacturing and also as new vaccines are brought into the mix," Willems Van Dijk said.
Schauer said more help could soon be on the way.
“It is the intention of CDC to go ahead and expand this program, both in terms of the number of doses that they could allocate to the states as well as our ability to use additional pharmacy partners," Schauer said.
People who are eligible for the vaccine can sign up online. DHS said Walgreens will create a phone line, as well.