'Why not go to Walgreens?': Milwaukee customers report easy vaccine experience at Walgreens

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Walgreens pharmacies across Wisconsin began administering COVID-19 vaccines on Friday, Feb. 12, through a federal program with large pharmacy chains.

There are 178 locations total in the state getting a total of 17,800 doses. Each Walgreens location will receive about 100 doses.

"I worked for them for 49 years, and when they start to do something, they do it well," said Mike Roets, who got the vaccine on Friday at the Walgreens at Capitol and 22nd.

Mike and Mary Roets said they got the vaccine because they want to do their part. They said they had no trouble getting an appointment.

"We really felt we had a better chance with Walgreens," Mary Roets said

More than two dozen locations in Milwaukee are administering vaccines.

The vaccines are only available for people who are eligible, which includes first responders, health care workers and people 65 and older. People who are eligible for the vaccine can sign up online. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said Walgreens will create a phone line, as well.

Joe Sauer said his normal medical provider couldn't give him a timeline of when people 65 and older could get a vaccine. When he heard Walgreens would be administering shots, he jumped at the opportunity.

"Walgreens has been very good about dealing with senior citizens in retirement centers, and when they embraced taking this on, I thought, 'Why not? Why not go to Walgreens? They're easy to deal with,'" Sauer said.

DHS said it chose Walgreens locations in underserved areas.

Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager with the DHS Division of Public Health, said the state used the social vulnerability index to figure out where the disparities exist.

"We did go ahead and map out and place the Walgreens sites over those areas, and that information helped inform which sites … are receiving that vaccine," Schauer said.

DHS data shows 3 percent of the state's Black residents, 5 percent of Asian residents, 7.8 percent of American Indian residents and 10.7 of white residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. 

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that is in part because of the racial breakdowns of the groups that are eligible to get the vaccine.

"I think it leads to a question, which is: What can we do to better diversify our health care workforce or our police workforce or our fire workforce? What are the barriers to people of color for becoming health care workers?" she said. "What are the barriers that make it harder for someone who grows up in a Black neighborhood in Milwaukee to become a nurse or to become a pharmacist or to become a doctor?"

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