‘What do you need us to do?’: Inside local community group, physician-led efforts to vaccinate Madison’s BIPOC population

MADISON, Wis.– Dane County has become a national model for distribution done right, after the Centers for Disease Control ranked Dane number one in COVID-19 vaccination among counties with more than 300,000 residents. However, a majority of BIPOC community members still remain unvaccinated.

“Everyone has a right to decide for themselves,” explained Dr. Sarah Ghee, Chief Operating Officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County. “But we must ask: What are we doing as a community to help them make their decision?”

Take one look at the numbers, and you’ll see large disparities: In Dane County, nearly 73% of American Indians are at least partially vaccinated, followed by 56% of whites, 48% of Asians, 44% of Hispanics, and lastly, 26% of Blacks.

The bottom line: White people are more than twice as likely as Blacks to have received at least one dose.

Dr. Ghee calls vaccination disparity a combination of misinformation and inconvenience.

“Hopefully when they have all that information, they’ll decide to get it,” she said. “But we have to take the position that we respect where they are.”

That’s why organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County are meeting members of the BIPOC community where they are, hosting clinics at places they routinely go, with people they innately trust.

“COVID disproportionately impacted our communities,” said Shiva Bidar-Sielaf, UW Health’s Chief Diversity Officer. “And the reason it did is because there’s a lot of systemic and structural racism.”

Local hospitals are partnering with community groups to vaccinate BIPOC families. Bidar-Sielaf sets aside one day a week for those appointments, every Wednesday. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is also hosting several pop-up clinics at places like churches to make vaccination more convenient.

“We have a moral responsibility to make sure they have access to a vaccine and also good information,” Bidar-Sielaf added.

Click here to schedule your vaccine appointment through UW Health.

Click here to find your closest vaccination clinic.