More than 100 people sign up to become Milwaukee vaccine ambassadors, combat misinformation

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Between 130 and 140 people have already signed up to become trusted community vaccine advocates, the Milwaukee Health Department said Tuesday.

The department launched the Crush COVID Crew. The goal of the program is to address common misconceptions and concerns around vaccine safety and effectiveness by providing influential voices and organizations with consistent and verified COVID-19 messaging, according to a news release. 

Rachel Lecher, a public health strategist for the Milwaukee Health Department, said the city is shifting away from activities where vaccines are the main event. Instead, the department is moving toward events like Juneteenth where vaccines were available but other things were also going on.

"I know a lot of groups in the community are kind of rethinking how can we offer vaccine," she said.

The city held two information sessions on Tuesday, June 29, for volunteers who signed up to be ambassadors. They will go out into the community, share vaccine resources and help debunk myths.

During the sessions, Lecher and other presenters shared tips for ambassadors. They said ambassadors should not judge or or try to convince unvaccinated people, but instead listen to their concerns and share resources. Kim Whitmore from Ujima United said it is important to help people find a reason to get vaccinated.

"This may be different for different people. You may consider sharing your reason," Whitmore said. "For many, it's about reconnecting with family. It's getting back to work. It's protecting loved ones that they are connected to that are at higher risk."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the key is to have advocates who are trusted by people who are unvaccinated.

"For example for younger people, between 20 and 30, who are the most trusted people? Not surprisingly it's other people who are 20 to 30, who have the same values, who have the same oftentimes race, who have the same education," he said.

Barrett said the city has successfully persuaded people who were on the fence. The city shared data Tuesday showing 47.5 percent of Milwaukee adults are fully vaccinated and 52.6 percent have received one dose.

"As we look at the remaining 45 percent, we clearly have more work to do," Barrett said.

Jump at the Sun Consultants is also recruiting community mobilizers who will go door-to-door and help build vaccine confidence. Milwaukee County residents aged 16 and older can earn up to $2,000 from July 1 to August 31, according to a flyer. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up attend a paid training session on Wednesday, June 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information is available here.

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