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RACINE – When it comes to people getting COVID vaccines in the City of Racine, the needle hasn’t moved much over the last few months, said Dottie-Kay Bowersox, the public health officer for the City of Racine Public Health Department.

She said that many people don’t believe in the vaccine, don’t understand it, or can’t find the time to get vaccinated.

“The damage is pretty much across the board,” she said. “So it just depends on the person you talk to (about why they aren’t getting it); there’s no rationale and reasoning.”

As cases of the COVID-19 delta variant catapulted Racine County into the high transmission category, and new cases reached levels not seen since February in the country, the Center for Disease Control has recommended that people mask up indoors — even if vaccinated — and get vaccinated.

In Racine, about eight census tracts have less than a 40 percent vaccination rate. Most of those areas are in communities of color and are in some of the most impoverished areas. City-wide, the vaccination rate among the Hispanic community is about 35 percent and 27 percent for Black people compared to 47 percent for white people.

“The vaccinations are absolutely necessary to mitigate the transmission of this virus,” she said. “You don’t want anybody else to get sick. We’ve seen what’s happening in Texas. We’ve seen what’s happening in Florida. I think we have 20 plus states at this point that are having surges. We don’t want to be in one of those states.”

Kelsey Kurhajec | Racine All Saints ER | Kelsey wears a mask to protect her patients, her family, and herself.

Eastern Racine County COVID-19 numbers

  • New daily confirmed cases reported within eastern Racine County as an average over the last 7 days and rate per 100,000 population: 25.00
  • New daily confirmed cases reported within eastern Racine County as an average over the last 7 days: 34.57
  • Eight census tracts – mostly in the heart of the City of Racine – have a vaccination rate of less than 40 percent.

SOURCE: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Last updated: 8/6/2021.

Myths about the COVID-19 vaccine

So what’s the issue?

Some people believe that if they already have had COVID, they have enough antibodies to fight off another infection. But that’s not entirely true, Bowersox said.

“The problem is no one can say for sure, 100%, that they have the antibodies, or that your resistance is such if you’ve had COVID before,” Bowersox said. “If you had a mild case of COVID, and maybe didn’t even realize it, or you had relatively limited symptoms, your body may not have produced in the body, to be able to ignore that.”

A person does produce antibodies after they have had COVID, according to a study published July 14, 2021, in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Ut Trinh, a Madison, Wis., resident formerly from Cambodia, gets her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a free vaccination clinic on March 9, 2021, at Life Center Madison. The Hmong Institute ran the clinic in partnership with the Benevolent Specialists Project. The clinic targeted Hmong and Southeast Asian adults 65 and older. Peng Her, CEO of The Hmong Institute, brought in a Hmong nurse to help with the vaccine clinic to make it less stressful for people receiving the shot. (Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch)

But if they had the COVID-19 Alphavirus, the person may not be fully protected against the Deltavirus because it’s not the same virus. The level of antibodies a person has can also decrease over time. The efficacy rate of the vaccines is not 100 percent. This is why some people who have been vaccinated are getting COVID-19.

“Unvaccinated health care workers appeared to have less protection against the delta and beta variants compared with alpha about a year after they recovered from mild COVID-19. While 88% of this group had neutralizing antibodies against alpha, only 47% neutralized delta,” the study found.

The vaccine currently being administered fends off the COVID-19 virus, but that’s the alpha strain. The Delta and Delta-plus variants are primarily being transmitted now, which is known to have higher transmission and death rates. This is why some breakthrough cases of COVID are happening among those who have been vaccinated. It’s also why people need to wear masks indoors because people who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus, Bowersox said.

Another myth swirling around social media and the internet is that the vaccine can give you the virus. This is not true. The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 because none of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States have a live virus. The vaccine teaches your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus. This is why some people experience COVID-19-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Read more about common myths.

SOURCE: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Why get the vaccine?

Health officials hope to stave off a potential surge in hospitalizations and deaths. Throughout the pandemic, about 5 percent of the 628,008 cases in Wisconsin resulted in a hospitalization. But even that triggered surge capacity levels at hospitals. Over the past week, the hospital usage rate in Southeastern Wisconsin is at about 90 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The COVID-19 vaccine does help keep people from having severe illness and death, according to the Center for Disease Control.

With that said, a person who has been vaccinated can still transmit the virus, but it does reduce the chance of spreading it at a lower rate, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“If people continue not to get vaccinated, this virus will continue to mutate. And as a new variant spreads, the vaccine may or may not be as effective as it was with COVID Alpha versus COVID delta and COVID Delta plus,” Bowersox said.

Also, there is no vaccine for children under the age of 12. With school starting in a few weeks, Bowersox also voiced concern for teachers, staff and students.

“We’re seeing younger individuals that are becoming ill. So individuals that are in their 20s and 30s. More children are becoming ill,” Bowersox said. “In order to maintain this finite system, which is the healthcare system, we need to do our job, which means that we need to be vaccinated.”

Where to get vaccinated in Racine or Racine County.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.