Milwaukee County is tracking neighbors in COVID-19 vaccinations. Access, income can play a role

The Milwaukee Department of Health set up one of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Washington Park branch of the Milwaukee Public Library on Wednesday at noon. By the end of the first hour, he had not given a single dose.

Nurses posted handwritten signs there and posted them on the windows and at the reception desk, then walked around the building talking to people and directing them to the pop-up clinic. No takers.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Nick Tomaro, the Department of Health’s preparedness coordinator, packed some of the site’s vaccine doses into a cooler to send them a few blocks away, to another county vaccination site on duty. -eat from United Methodist Children’s Services, which saw more foot traffic.

“We took a lot of staff out of our health centers and moved them to these smaller sites,” Tomaro said. “From our point of view, we now realize that we have to go very small, everywhere.”

Milwaukee County lags behind its neighboring counties in terms of vaccination rates. WOW counties – Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington – have all vaccinated 80% or more of their residents aged 65 and over, while Milwaukee is at 77%. Waukesha has vaccinated 46% of its people, and Ozaukee has vaccinated 49%, which is 10 percentage points more than Milwaukee’s 39%.

It is not unusual for vaccination rates to vary from county to county. The New York Times vaccine tracking shows variation across Wisconsin, including some areas where crossing the county line means a 20 percentage point drop in vaccination rates.

However, polls show willingness to receive the vaccine is closely tied to political affiliation, with Republican men being the least likely to want a COVID-19 vaccine. Milwaukee is a strong Democratic county, while WOW counties are one of the state’s Republican strongholds.

Paul Farrow, Waukesha County executive, said politics was just a small piece of the puzzle.

“If people were looking at political lines, they would say, well, you shouldn’t be very high,” he said. “Well, there are other things people are considering outside of their politics – they are looking at their quality of life and their safety for their families while they are being vaccinated.”

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Farrow said Waukesha County also had a large population of residents working in health fields and being part of the first vaccination group, which helped get many gun shots early on. In that regard, he said, Waukesha County is similar to Dane County, which leads the state in terms of vaccination rates.

“The healthcare providers that we had in the area did a fantastic job of starting the process and then were able to step in with our clinics and continue the process,” he said.

Farrow noted that based on data that Waukesha County had started the vaccination process, county officials expected about 20 to 25 percent of people in the county to decide not to get vaccinated for various reasons. About 50 percent of the county has received at least one dose of the vaccine, so Farrow said the focus is now on closing the gap between that 50 percent and a target of 75 to 80 percent, in part creating smaller community vaccination sites like those in neighboring Milwaukee County to improve access for people who want the photo, but have not yet been able to get it.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said last week that vaccination rates in Milwaukee County vary, but are often correlated with wealth and, therefore, with education and income. This puts it in line with previous studies which have shown higher vaccination rates in wealthier communities.

“Those neighborhoods… with higher education, with higher income have a higher vaccination penetration rate than those with lower income,” Barrett said. “Part of this is education, part of this is access.”

The median household income in Milwaukee County is about $ 50,000, according to the US Census Bureau, compared to $ 87,000 for Waukesha, $ 85,000 for Ozaukee and $ 78,000 for Washington. High-income jobs often come with more flexibility and sick leave, both of which lower barriers to getting a COVID-19 vaccine and deal with the resulting side effects.

The rate of people without health insurance is also twice as high in Milwaukee County as it is in the other three counties, according to census data. Although the vaccines are free – a point that the Washington Park Library vaccinators emphasized in their hand-made signs – not everyone knows they don’t have to pay to be vaccinated.

Milwaukee expects $ 394 million from the US federal bailout plan to be spent on vaccination efforts. Barrett said the city plans to focus on such efforts as the Washington Park Library site – smaller locations close to communities with lower rates – as well as partnerships with churches, non-profit organizations. lucrative as the pantry for UMCS, local businesses, and even the city’s Mexican Consulate, which hosts a vaccination clinic on Fridays.

Tomaro, from the city’s health department, was not too distressed by the lack of visitors to the library’s vaccination clinic. The health department is ordering more signs to replace quick handwritten notices, which it says will attract more people, but it is also putting its eggs in as many baskets as possible – lots of little pop-up sites in others. community places. , as well as home visits for people who cannot make it to a clinic.

“We try to be present where people are, and we look at census tract data to say, ‘OK, these are neighborhoods that have low rates of vaccine delivery, what are the barriers’ – and we will bring the vaccine directly to these neighborhoods, ”he said.

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