Lt. Gov. Barnes promotes vaccine availability, as distribution levels off across Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin's lieutenant governor says the state will keep working until everyone who wants a vaccine is able to get one.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes toured a walk-in clinic at Destiny High School on Saturday, April 17, aiming to build vaccine confidence and break down barriers.

"If I could tell a cautionary tale, it's called Michigan. Right now, cases are on the rise, hospitalizations are up, and we can easily find ourselves in that position if we don't take the necessary steps to combat this virus," Barnes said.

The clinic was part of a partnership between nearby Christian Faith Fellowship Church and Walgreens.

George Bullock, a member of the church, came to get vaccinated, saying it was just like getting a flu shot.

"I decided I just wanted to come and get it over with. I like to travel so I think ... you aren't going to be able to travel, you aren't going to be able to do too much if you don't take this vaccine," he said.

Walgreens has hosted more than 350 vaccine equity clinics across the country. More than 100 vaccine equity clinics were within the last two weeks.

"We cannot lose sight of reaching vulnerable populations, which is why clinics like this are so vitally important in our communities," said Johanna Viteri, regional vice president of Walgreens West Great Lakes Region.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows vaccine distribution has started to level off across the state.

The seven-day average on Friday, April 16 was 45,344 vaccine doses administered, the lowest average since March 18.

Barnes said the state has made good progress, but there's still work to be done.

"We know that there are still gaps in vaccine distribution," he said.

He cited data showing 36 percent of white residents have received their first dose compared to 16 percent of Black residents.

"To me that's important because as a person of color myself, I know that it may be harder for certain individuals to get access to health care," said Walgreens pharmacist Phoua Xiong.

Last week, the federal government paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while it investigates six cases of rare blood clots. Barnes said that has created some "logistical challenges" in vaccine equity because it's only one dose.

Barnes said he recently got his first dose, and he has a message for anyone who is still hesitant: "Think about what you want this summer to look like. I don't want to have a summer like last summer."

Walgreens pharmacists said they are doing what they can to make the process as easy and safe as possible.

"With everything that's going on with J & J, just don't be too worried about it. We still have Pfizer. We still have Moderna, which -- they're great. Ninety-four, 95 percent effective," Xiong said.

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