VACCINE TRACKER: Clark and Taylor counties at lowest vaccination rates in Wis.

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 4:39 PM CDT
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NEILLSVILLE, Wis. (WSAW) - As of April 1, Clark and Taylor counties have the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination in Wisconsin. There are a variety of factors contributing to that.

Thursday, the state as a whole about 31% of people age 16 and older had gotten at least one shot, which includes three-quarters of the 65 and older population. That age group is the largest that has also been eligible to get vaccinated for two to three months when including people living in long-term care facilities.

Comparatively, both Clark and Taylor counties each have about 18% of their total 16 and older population vaccinated with one dose. A little more than half of the people 65 and older in Taylor have gotten a shot, and it is about 61% for Clark County.

Historically, these two counties have lower rates of vaccinations in general. When looking at the percentage of 2-year-old children who have received the vaccines the state requires kids have to go to school, Taylor County typically sees rates in the mid-to-high 50% range and Clark County typically sees rates in the low-to-mid 40% range.

Wisconsin also has the fourth-largest population of Plain communities, with large settlements in both counties. Amish and Mennonite communities do not necessarily oppose vaccines, but many people often choose not to get vaccinated. They also do not have the same, quick access to evolving information as other populations.

“We’ve been doing outreach to them from the health department through our contacts, through mailings all along during COVID,” John Ross, the emergency management director for Clark County said. “So, we’ve been sharing information and trying to engage and give them the opportunity because we understand, obviously, Amish and Mennonite residents aren’t going to have the internet, they aren’t going to have WiFi.”

He said the outreach through trusted sources, newspaper media, and mailer throughout the pandemic have gone well. Ross also mentioned that both Clark and Taylor counties have small health department staff sizes, which impacts the number of vaccines that can be administered. There is also a limited supply of vaccines. Clark County has been doing weekly drive-thru clinics and administering about 350-400 doses at each clinic. Both counties also do not have a high population of health care workers, who were among the first populations eligible to be vaccinated.

Ross said he would not be surprised if the political climate around the pandemic has impacted vaccination rates too, as well as younger people maybe not feeling the need to get vaccinated. He iterated it is everyone’s personal choice as to whether they get vaccinated, however, he said they, as the health department, do encourage people to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 case numbers, Ross said, have remained steady, with about 22 active cases in Clark County as of 4 p.m. Thursday. However, Ross said testing rates have gone down too, which could mean people either do not need to get tested and cases are actually lower, or they are choosing not to get tested even if they are coming in contact with positive cases or feeling ill. He urged, people need to continue the COVID-19 mitigation practices of wearing masks, social distancing, not going to large gatherings, especially as new, often more-contagious variants of COVID-19 continue to pop up.

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