MILWAUKEE — State and local leaders toured the Northwest Community Vaccine Clinic on Monday, hoping to raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated and to address vaccine hesitancy in the community.
"The next group of people [to get vaccinated] are the people who were on the fence or had busy schedules or didn't have the flexibility to go down to the Wisconsin Center. So, what we're trying to do right now is bring this into the neighborhoods," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Mayor Barrett was joined by County Executive David Crowley, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Kristen Johnson.
While they said local and community clinics remain successful, they're looking at even more ways to reach vaccine-hesitant people where they're at, especially as vaccination rates go down.
On April 29, the 7-day average for first doses administered was 1,670. That's down from the 7-day average of 5,805 on March 29.
Commissioner Johnson said there have been internal conversations about going directly to homes to spread information about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We're really thinking about having people door to door and educating - so appropriate messenger, appropriate message, really answering questions. I think what we've learned is people really need to hear from people they trust," Johnson said.
The commissioner said they would partner with community organizations to do that work and would also pair up with neighborhood or mobile vaccine clinics to send people to.
Registered nurse Jewell Weavers has been working at the Northwest clinic since mid-April. She's seen first-hand the number of people come through the doors decrease in the last few weeks.
"Usually we're busy up until like 11:30 a.m.; 3:15 p.m. has been a crowd here as well, but not here lately," she said.
Nurse Weaver said Monday was one of the slowest days she's seen since working at the clinic. Staff said just 50 came in Monday, as of 2 p.m. Nurse Weave said when she first started at the clinic there were about 200 people per day.
She said she's heard a lot of people "are waiting to see what happens."
Commissioner Johnson says the longer people wait, the longer it will take to reach herd immunity.
"I think we are concerned about getting to a place where we have enough people that are vaccinated that the disease goes away," Johnson said.
Until Milwaukee reaches the point of herd immunity, officials said mitigation measures will need to remain in place.
"The longer it takes to get to a place where enough people are vaccinated and we see the spread of the virus stop, the longer we're going have to distance and wear masks," Johnson said.
Although Johnson remains optimistic, she said the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether or not Milwaukee will reach herd immunity by the national goal of July 4.
And Nurse Weaver, like many of us, is hoping to celebrate Independence Day as she has in the past.
"I want them to be vaccinated like I'm vaccinated. And I think if we all do that, then we can have a nice 4th of July. I like to travel, I like to fish. I can't do that now," Nurse Weaver said.
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