Crush COVID Ambassadors: Milwaukee looking for volunteers to help address vaccine hesitancy

Demetria Garrett
Posted at 6:24 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 19:46:48-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is starting a new approach to boost its vaccinations numbers. It is trying to get more people to get the shots, particularly in underserved communities.

Robert “Biko” Baker started out skeptical when it came to coronavirus.

"I was one of those guys who didn't think COVID was real,” said Baker, of Render Marketing.

Now, Baker is out in the community educating people about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Robert "Biko" Baker
Robert "Biko" Baker talks to inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections about COVID-19 vaccines.

“Actually caught COVID while working on a project, came back and missed Christmas. My son was quarantined with me,” said Baker.

His marketing firm Render was hired by Milwaukee County to go into the House of Corrections and talk to inmates about vaccines.

“I started paying attention to the numbers and statistics and realized the vaccine was there to help,” said Baker.

covid vaccine

The City of Milwaukee Health Department is now doing something similar. It is looking for volunteers to become Crush COVID Ambassadors.

“The goal of this program is to address misconceptions and concerns around vaccine safety and effectiveness,” said Rachel Lecher, public health strategist for the Milwaukee Health Department.

The health department trains ambassadors who then talk to neighbors, friends and family. Demetria Garrett, who is part of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, says her entire chapter just became ambassadors.

Demetria Garrett
Demetria Garrett and her Zeta Phi Beta sorority became Crush COVID Ambassadors.

"We are a social service organization, our job is to support and inform our community, and the Black community and the brown community are a part of that,” said Garrett.

"We know there are particular populations, particular pockets in the city that have low vaccination numbers,” said Marlaina Jackson of the Milwaukee Health Department. “These are traditionally underserved Black and brown communities that we know by data don't have high vaccine rates and also have [a] higher disease burden.”

According to the state, 47 percent of white residents in Wisconsin have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s compared to 36 percent of Hispanic residents and 27 percent of Black residents.

“In my own experience, Black and brown men between the ages of 25-40, almost have the same talking points for COVID, fear of the government, tracking and the fact they feel they are strong enough to beat it,” said Baker.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced on its website that it had received permission from the Food and Drug Administration that they can enroll children as young as 12 in its COVID-19 vaccine trial. (Federica Narancio/AP)

“There is a wealth of information out there that we can't wait to share with our community, to say, 'hey, here are some things you should know, this information you should know and make an informed decision and get vaccinated,'” said Garrett.

If you are interested in becoming a Crush COVID Ambassador, it is not too late. You can sign up to be a volunteers here.

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