RACINE — Local vaccine champions, hired in an effort to increase Racine’s vaccination rate to 75%, work to reach Racine communities, dispel myths and increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccinations.
Carolyn McNeil, one of the champions, said she chose to take part in order to give back to the community. She emphasized their mission is not to convince or persuade community members to get vaccinated, but to “educate individuals who may have misconceptions.”
“I thought this would be an opportunity for me to do more, to give back and to help people understand and see that they’re not in this alone,” McNeil said.
A group of vaccine champions met with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes during his visit Thursday to The Main Project & Cafe, 1014 State St., to discuss the pandemic’s affect on communities of color as well as vaccinations.
McNeil said she believed it made a difference that the lieutenant governor was a minority male, so community members could see someone “that looks like them” wasn’t hesitant about being vaccinated. When Barnes was vaccinated, he shared the process with the public on social media and said “getting the vaccine is safe and easy.”
Today, as eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expanded to all Wisconsinites 16 and older, I happily received my first dose at the walk-in site at North Division High School in Milwaukee. Getting the vaccine is safe and easy, and it’s critical to stopping the spread of the virus. pic.twitter.com/IhmQ0NSCZz— Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes (@LGMandelaBarnes) April 5, 2021
Misinformation and myths, according to McNeil, have created fear in minority communities, specifically among African American men. She said she has heard stories the vaccine isn’t free, the vaccine has a chip in it to track them or even that there was something put into the vaccine specifically to kill African Americans, none of which is remotely close to true.
“We need to listen and we need to hear the people’s concern,” McNeil said. “We can’t pass judgement based off what we have done to be vaccinated, but we have to hear and be very sympathetic as we listen carefully to what is being said and help to guide and promote a healthier space in their mind, so there is understanding.”