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Agencies unite to reach underserved about vaccines

By John McCracken

ALLOUEZ – Leaders of community groups, local government and health care systems throughout Brown County gathered to address gaps in COVID-19 vaccine distribution that persist in marginalized communities throughout Brown County.

“I’m vaccinated because I want to protect our Brown County community, my friends, co-workers and my loved ones,” Brown County public health strategist Claire Paprocki said.

Representatives from Brown County Public Health, De Pere Public Health, Door County Medical Center, Holy Family Memorial, Bellin Health, Prevea Health, St. Vincent Hospitals, Aurora BayCare, Green Bay Area Public Schools, Casa ALBA Melanie, Community Services Agency (COMSA), African Heritage Inc, the Hmong community, and the Oneida Nation gathered at Heritage Hill State Park to share personal insight into why they got vaccinated Thursday, May 20.

As of Thursday May 20, at least 45% of Brown County residents have received at least one dose in a two-dose series of the COVID-19 vaccine, and almost 41% have completed their vaccine.

“We’re doing well, but we could do even better,” Paprocki said.

Speakers echoed a common theme: the need to reach and inform minority communities in and around Brown County.

According to the Department of Health Services, almost 17% of Black Brown County residents, nearly 26% of Hispanic Brown County residents, 29% of American Indian Brown County residents and 35% of Asian Brown County residents have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of May 20.

White Brown County residents surpass all other groups in the same time frame, with 45% having received at least one dose.

Oneida Nation Vice-chairman Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens said the Nation has spread vaccine information through social media channels, tribal newspapers and direct mailings to reach tribal members who’s live extend beyond reservation borders.

“Choosing to be vaccinated is a choice to protect the communities in which we live, work and play,” Yellowbird-Stevens said.

Dr. Sabrina Robins, a board member of Appleton-based African Heritage, Inc, said its ongoing Get The Shot L.I.V.E. campaign is going across Northeast Wisconsin to reach and inform Black communities about the vaccine.

“Get the shot to live, get the shot and live for your families, for our community,” Robins said.

African Heritage, Inc. has held vaccine clinics with Prevea Health across the region and has a large Juneteenth celebration and clinic planned for Saturday, June 13 in Appleton.

More information can be found at africanheritageinc.org.

Casa ALBA’s Hispanic vaccine coordinator Elizabeth Kostichka, said its ongoing vaccine clinics have addressed concerns regarding the vaccine from members of the Hispanic community directly in Green Bay and have another clinic planned for Saturday and Sunday May 23-24 at St. Willebrord Catholic Church in Green Bay.

“We have been able to tell them that this is at no cost to them and that no immigration status is needed,” Kostichka said.

Casa ALBA’s vaccine clinic information can be found on its Facebook page.

Executive director of COMSA Said Hassan said he got vaccinated because he has faced decades of disease and turmoil as a refugee who survived the Somali Civil War.

“I could not stop the cholera outbreak in refugee camps. I could not stop the war in Somalia,” Hassan said. “I could help though in getting the vaccination.”

COMSA is hosting a vaccine clinic on Sunday June 6 at Green Bay Masjid from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More information can be found at comsausa.org.

Main Oriental Market manager and Hmong advocate Tara Yang spoke directly to the Hmong community which has had hesitations around getting vaccinated based on myths and misinformation.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the questions,” Yang said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to community leaders.”

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