Still unsure about the COVID-19 vaccine? County leaders say some people need more information

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Doctors have repeatedly reinforced the message that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, but many people still don't trust it.

"We have heard a lot of mistrust in not only the vaccine but just in our systems in general," said Mara Lord, chair of the Milwaukee County Vaccine Communications and Community Mobilization Committee.

County leaders are hoping to build trust, and they believe the best way to do that is by having people share their experiences at vaccine sites.

"The individuals who already have chosen to be vaccinated -- they are absolutely the best ambassadors and the best authentic voices of what their experience was in getting the vaccine and why they chose to get vaccinated," Lord said.

Lord thinks of her role not as addressing vaccine hesitancy but of building vaccine confidence in Milwaukee County.

"In our local research that we conducted, we found that people sharing their very own stories about why they're getting vaccinated, and what their experience was: Did they feel sick? Do they feel side effects? Those are making a difference with individuals who aren't quite sure yet," Lord said.

She said the county will be sending out 150 people into neighborhoods to speak with people directly and share their positive vaccine experiences.

Nitin Neeraj described a painless experience getting the vaccine at North Division High School on Wednesday, March 31.

"I went inside and signed a form. It was very smooth. They gave a vaccine in I think 10 minutes and then ... I had to wait for 15 minutes," he said.

He said a friend told him about the site, starting a positive chain reaction.

"It is good to be vaccinated. I really promote vaccination because this is very important," Neeraj said.

Lord points to national data from the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows vaccine confidence is growing. Data from December showed about 50 percent were questioning the vaccine or uncertain about it, and since then, about 20 percent of them have decided to get the vaccine.

But Lord said there are several reasons people are still unsure. One of the biggest is they need more information, both from family and friends and from medical professionals.

"Don't be hesitant to ask for information. Everyone deserves to get the information they need to make that informed choice," she said.

Dr. Brad Burmeister, an emergency physician and member of the Wisconsin Medical Society COVID-19 task force, said the most significant side effect is having an anaphylactic reaction, which is treatable.

"We're starting to enter a phase now where we need to start really providing education and talking to people who know maybe wanted to give other people a chance to get the vaccine first see how it goes," Burmeister said.

He said in the health care setting, women of childbearing age are some of the most hesitant.

"We really have no medical reason to believe that getting a vaccine would harm a woman or her fetus or prevent the ability to conceive," Burmeister said.

He also warns of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 virus.

"We continue to see people in the hospital who get COVID-19 and do not do well with it," he said.

Anyone looking for more information about the COVID-19 vaccine should visit healthyMKE.com or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services' website.

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