Milwaukee Health Department will begin administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again on Wednesday

The Milwaukee Health Department will begin administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again on Wednesday after a pause instituted by the federal government was lifted, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said.

The state Department of Health Services supports the decision, she said.

The Health Department will provide the option to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at its temporary community vaccination sites and shelters, though the Pfizer vaccine will be available for those who do not want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, she said.

Administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused after reports of a rare blood clotting disorder, but federal officials determined that the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risks of not allowing its use.

Of the nearly 8 million people who have received the vaccine, 15 have developed the condition and three have died, USA Today reported.

The city plans to move increasingly toward temporary community vaccination sites as it winds down the Wisconsin Center vaccination site downtown.

That means vaccination hours at the Wisconsin Center are also changing.

Johnson said this week the site will start closing half an hour earlier at 5:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 3:30 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

This Sunday will be the final Sunday the site will be open for vaccinations, she said.

The city is also looking at potentially changing its mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Tuesday saying those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outside when they are not in crowded settings.

The ordinance requires that masks be worn outside in public spaces and within 6 feet of any other person who is not a household or family member.

It was not immediately clear what the timeline would be for potential changes.

“I cannot say with this news basically two hours old that we have made a decision how we’re going to move forward, but, again, we’re going to work with our partners at the Common Council and with the Health Department to effectuate our goals,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

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‘I don’t think we’ve hit a wall of hesitancy,’ top Milwaukee health official says

Milwaukee health experts believe we will see a decline in hesitancy as the vaccine becomes more readily available to residents. 

“I don’t think we’ve hit a wall of hesitancy; I think we’ve just shifted phases in our vaccine strategy,” said Ben Weston, director of medical services at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

One in 5 Americans continue to say they’re not at all likely to get the vaccine, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll in April.

Milwaukee residents who were eager to get vaccinated have likely had that opportunity at this point,  Johnson said.

Health officials are now focused on getting vaccine in the arms of people who haven’t made it a top priority, by offering more convenient vaccination sites in areas that were most affected by COVID-19. 

“I think we’ve gotten beyond the people who are either eager or readily able to get vaccine and so now we are seeing that strategy shift. Already we’re seeing it with increased walk-in centers, we’re seeing it with increased mobile sites, increased pop-up sites, increased events across the county, where vaccine comes to people in times and places that are convenient as opposed to asking everybody to come to us,” said Weston.

Latest COVID-19 numbers

  • New cases reported: 815
  • New deaths reported: 17
  • Number hospitalized: 331 (intensive care: 105); up 112 patients from a month ago
  • Seven-day average of daily cases: 604 (up 132 cases from one month ago)
  • Seven-day average of daily deaths: 8 (up 5 deaths from one month ago)
  • Seven-day average positivity rate — as a share of all tests given: 3.2%
  • Total cases since the start of pandemic: 595,864 (8,852 active cases)
  • Total deaths: 6,773

Latest vaccine numbers

  • Total doses administered: 4,258,516
  • Daily doses administered: 22,962
  • Wisconsin residents with at least one dose: 2,460,545 (42.3% of the population)
  • Residents who are fully vaccinated: 1,855,145 (31.9% of the population)
  • Residents 65 and older with at least one dose:  817,785 (80.4% of 65+ population)

Alison Dirr of Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report. 

Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBentley1@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @drake_bentley.