Vaccine disparities: Who is choosing not to get the shot in Wisconsin, and why

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 19:24:56-04

MILWAUKEE — The race continues to vaccinate more people in Wisconsin, but not everyone is on board. The state health department reports a growing disparity between who is receiving the vaccine and who is not.

covid vaccine

Lisa Schumacher is part of a family of four from Menomonee Falls, and only one of them, her daughter, has chosen to get vaccinated. Schumacher does not consider herself anti-vaccine. She is just unsure.

Lisa Schumacher and her family.

"In general, we're all just a little bit hesitant of the vaccine and really, the reason being is because of the fact that [it] hasn't been around very long. Obviously some research has been done. But it has, you know, been around for what, maybe six months,” said Schumacher.

It's one of the concerns often heard by Dr. Nalini Rajamannan, the medical director at Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Cardiology in Sheboygan. She is also an expert in FDA approval.

“It is a little bit hard for people to say 'okay I'm going to jump in, I'm going to jump in and get the vaccine' and try to do this for people who have a conservative approach to their health care,” said Dr. Rajamannan.

When you look at vaccinations in Wisconsin, 2,849,241 have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far. That's less than half, about 49 percent of the state's population.

Dr. Greg Poland, who heads up the vaccine research group at Mayo Clinic, says vaccine skepticism plays a role in that number not being higher. But being distrustful, Dr. Poland says, isn't unique to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"This is not new. In 2011, I wrote a review article for the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that every vaccine that has ever been introduced into the United States since the 18th century has been met with equal skepticism,” said Dr. Poland.

He says for some people who have vaccine hesitancy, nothing he or others can say will change their mind.

"The spectrum of vaccine hesitancy, to anti-vaccine, are a variety of different situations, often the vaccine-hesitant. They don't understand the technology and the science behind it, they have questions, they have legitimate questions that they need somebody to answer."

United Community Center UCC
United Community Center, 1028 S. Ninth St. Milwaukee

Al Castro with the United Community Center works to bring information about the COVID-19 vaccine to Milwaukee's south side. He is seeing the hesitancy hit differently for communities of color.

New numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) show Black people are half as likely to get the vaccine, and Hispanics are 40 percent less likely to get the vaccine, compared to white people. Castro says for the Hispanic population, it’s about access and misinformation.

"They have low-income families, they work jobs where you take off work for a couple hours, you're not getting paid for it,” said Castro. "They still believe misinformation that you need an insurance card and your ID."

He says in order to help people make the right choice for themselves about the vaccine, they have to be in the community talking to people.

"It takes the conversation, I've had a couple of these conversations, it takes a few minutes to hear what their concerns are,” said Castro.

Castro and members of the UCC are out in the community going to restaurants, grocery stores, and other areas to try to meet people where they are at to answer their medical questions.

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Coronavirus in Wisconsin

More data on Wisconsin's vaccination progress here.

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Check out county-by-county coronavirus case numbers here.

More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

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