MILWAUKEE — Two Milwaukee organizations teamed up with one goal in mind: to educate and vaccinate as many people as they can, especially those in the Hmong community.
"First thing that popped in my head was 'I need to get the vaccine,'" said Zha-Tsee Kiatoukaysy, who received his vaccine.
Zha-Tsee Kiatoukaysy was just one of dozens of people who received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine Friday after the Hmong American Friendship Association announced they'd be partnering with Hayat Pharmacy to provide the vaccinations.
"I would say this is the first event with the Hmong community to do this," said Lo Nang Kiatoukays, executive director of the Hmong American Friendship Association.
Taking a closer look, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, only seven percent of Asian Americans in Wisconsin have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Lo Nang Kiatoukays says about 12,000 Hmong people are living in Milwaukee, but not enough of them are getting the vaccine.
"It's low, so we definitely would like to see it higher," said Kiatoukays.
Officials say the language barrier the Hmong population faces, along with the fears they have surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, have led to low vaccination rates among the community.
"There's a lot of fear when it comes to chemical warfare because back in the Vietnam war, agent orange was used as chemical warfare. A lot of people are scared of it. And people think that the vaccine will change someone's DNA, or cause a birth defect," said Kiatoukays.
Which is why many say it's critical that more vaccination clinics are provided in areas that groups like the Hmong population are familiar with, in order to make outreach efforts easier.
"The more we talk about it, the more we share, the more we can spread the word and people can utilize this service," said Kiatoukays.
Those who received the Moderna vaccine Friday will come back to the Association's facility on April 2 to receive their second dose.