'This is a huge step': COVID-19 vaccine site opens at Wisconsin Center

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Center opened Tuesday, Jan. 12 as a hub for COVID-19 vaccinations for the city workers who are part of phase 1A of distribution. 

Officials say they're expecting to get 800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week.  Eventually they hope to administer 1,000 vaccines a day. 

In an effort to keep people safe, there are socially distant chairs for those waiting to get their shot. 

After someone gets the vaccine, they will be monitored for 15 minutes to make sure they are doing OK. 

“First day of an operation we look at how a flow is going,” says Nick Tomaro, preparedness coordinator with the Milwaukee Health Department. “Obviously as you heard, this is an initial starting point and then we’ll be scaling up operations.”

Mayor Barrett says they’ve already placed an order with the state for 3,000 more vaccines.

Milwaukee firefighter, Alberto Uscanga, was one of the first in line to receive the vaccine this morning.

“Regardless of whether I was the first person in line, 10th, 100th I know this is an important step not just for us as a department, as a city, but globally,” said Uscanga.

Organizers tells us they’ve made some adjustments since opening, like adding additional registration tables.

For the most part, they say this first day went smoothly.

“I think it’s a good thing that we are trying to get a vaccine out since we see people every day,” says Milwaukee firefighter Brett Volk. “I’m glad we could get it.”

“I just definitely want to commend everyone that's here today because the process was extremely efficient. They definitely answered any questions that I had and it was very easy to go through,” said Uscanga.

The site is still not open to the public. Officials say they have a busy day ahead on Tuesday with another 200 scheduled vaccines.

We're told the doses are stored in freezers and city officials say those freezers will be monitored 24-hours a day and a limited number of people have access to them. 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said this is paid for by federal reimbursements, the CARES Act and grants. 

“Now we are fighting this war on two fronts. We are fighting the war on the testing front. We’re fighting the war on the vaccination front which tells you how much work is going into this here at the Milwaukee Health Department," said Mayor Barrett. 

Officials say they plan to stay at the Wisconsin Center until May 2. 

The site is not open to the public right now. 

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