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Wis. groups worry pause in J & J vaccine use will hurt underserved communities

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 9:47 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Some Wisconsin community leaders worry the pause in use of a COVID-19 vaccine could put already underserved communities at an even greater disadvantage.

Federal health authorities Tuesday recommended vaccinators stop giving out Johnson & Johnson shots for now, as they reviewed cases of blood clotting. All six cases of blood clots were reported in the U.S., out of the nearly 7 million shots administered.

The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, which used the maker’s vaccine in last week’s clinic, has heeded the warnings and left plans for a future clinic up in the air.

“A delay won’t stop us from helping our communities,” Laura Ford-Harris, the chief development officer, said.

The club had planned the second of three clinics on Saturday, April 17. According to Ford-Harris, another 500 people were supposed to get a Johnson & Johnson shot. She said officials will decide by Friday morning with whether to proceed with the clinic by using the label’s vaccine, change vaccines or cancel the event entirely.

“We know that people from minority communities are definitely affected by COVID-19,” she said.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches has a similar mission, to bring vaccines to those who need it. Rev. Daniel Schultz, who leads the network’s vaccine outreach program, says he now has to take an extra step and address the hesitancy.

“For example, we hear a lot about Hispanic or Latino congregations, members, who are very reluctant to get vaccinated because they’re afraid of getting asked to produce an ID,” he said.

According to Rev. Schultz, the council has been working on removing tangible and non-tangible barriers to vaccines after receiving a $100,000 grant from the Dept. of Health Services.

“It’s really important for us... to build trust, and this news, unfortunately, doesn’t really help that,” he said. “It sets you back a step.”

He also described the update on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine reaching elders in the Hmong community. “It makes them nervous and understandably so,” he said.

The Boys & Girls Club is waiting on more guidance from federal agencies and local health partners to decide the next step, according to Ford-Harris.

“I know I’ve personally lost friends and family from COVID-19,” Ford-Harris said. “If we can save one life by having access to a vaccine clinic in the neighborhood where people live, then I think we should feel really good about what we’ve done.”

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