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Getting Answers: How UW Health is addressing vaccine disparities

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Coronavirus Vaccines Getting Answers HOR MON

(WKOW) -- Communities of color have experienced higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar disparities are now being seen in vaccination efforts.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 6.4% of Black Wisconsinites, 8.6% of Asian Wisconsinites, and 13.1% of American Indian Wisconsinites have been vaccinated for COVID-19, compared to 18.1% of White Wisconsinites.

In addition, only 5.8% of the state's Hispanic population has been vaccinated, compared to 18.7% of the Non-Hispanic population.

UW Health tells 27 News it is working to bridge that gap through several initiatives.

"Making sure, given the disproportionate impact, that those communities do actually get prioritized and receive the vaccine is really critical to protect them, because they clearly are at higher risk," said UW Health's Chief Diversity Officer Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.

UW Health says it is focusing on ways to prioritize communities of color as more people qualify to receive the vaccine.

"We're reaching out to them directly and allowing them access to vaccine as quickly as possible," Bidar-Sielaff continued. "Of course, all that prioritization is very dependent on our vaccine supply. So, you know, we have limitations within that."

The hospital says in addition to reaching out directly, it plans to roll out a new program soon that focuses on vaccine education in these communities. Vaccine Patient Educators will act as community health workers. Bidar-Sielaff says they are bilingual in Spanish and Hmong. The program is expected to begin this month.

"Their role is really going to be to reach out very directly to our patients that identify as Black, Latinx, or Hmong, talking to them about the vaccine, answering any questions that they may have, Bidar-Sielaff said. "Then if they decide that they want to schedule their vaccine appointments, helping them navigate that system.

Bidar-Sielaff says UW Health is also working to make sure the vaccine is accessible in as many locations as possible.

Emily Friese

27 News Producer

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