Val Moore and her team are walking down a street in Metcalfe Park. Clad in bright orange shirts that say “Immune System At Work,” they start catching some attention. Someone walks up to them, asks what the shirts are about, and a conversation begins.
Moore, operations supervisor and manager of the COVID-19 outreach team of the nonprofit Next Door, said it happens just like this all the time. People get curious, they talk, and a relationship is built.
Hearing from people on the street helps the team understand why some people aren’t getting the vaccine.
“What they’re really sharing with us are barriers,” Moore said. “There’s a great disbelief. There’s distrust. There’s a knowledge barrier that we are working daily to try and knock down.”
These barriers include a lack of transportation and a lack of information about how vaccines work, Moore said.
Next Door, an early education and child care organization, received a grant for $98,230 from the Department of Health Services for COVID-19 outreach in the areas it serves. The organization has a goal to get 500 shots in arms by Aug. 31. It began on June 1.
Moore said members of the team are responsible for around 200 people receiving the shot as of July 29 but did not have an official count. Next Door hosts its own clinics using vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, from Hayat Pharmacy.
“The vaccine clinics that we’ve done at Next Door are probably the tip of the iceberg as far as the number of people that have gotten the vaccine as a result of the outreach team,” said Dr. Michael DeBisschop, a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The outreach team partners with the Medical College of Wisconsin to get the word out about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“We addressed the myths and facts and encouraged them to make conscious decisions and personal decisions versus listening to the grapevine or moving toward whatever your peers are telling you that you should be doing,” said Dr. Dessie Levy, co-director of community engagement initiatives with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and assistant professor at MCW.
Over the past two months, the five-person outreach team has canvassed the neighborhood, hosted community events and even driven people to vaccination sites. Vaccination rates have been lower on the North Side compared with most other areas of the city.
Moore also has worked to establish relationships with other vaccinators. She gives recommendations to the Milwaukee Health Department for places to host mobile clinics and refers people to the department’s sites.
The outreach has gone to places of worship, too. Moore said there’s a church about every three blocks in the 53206 ZIP code, so it made sense to partner with them. The team serves the entire city, but is based out of Metcalfe Park.
One of its strongest community partners is Epistles of Christ Church, 2407 W. Nash St., which has hosted cookouts and other community events.
Jeremy Walton, an IT support technician at Next Door, said members of the team wanted to get the word out about COVID-19 in an informal way. So they fired up “Space Jam 2,” provided refreshments and held a family movie night at the church. Before the movie, the outreach workers answered questions about the vaccine and showed a news segment from CNN.
“We don’t preach,” Moore said. “We open it up and we say, ‘Hey everybody, we know why we’re here. Let’s have a conversation.’”
2 vaccine clinics
Next Door is planning to host two more vaccine clinics from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday Aug. 4, and Wednesday, Aug. 25 The clinic will be held at Next Door’s location at 5310 W. Capitol Drive. For more information, contact Val Moore at 414-881-7048 or email@example.com. Walk-ins are welcome.
On Aug. 4, the clinic will be offering Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. On Aug. 25, it will be offering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.