Dr. Sheryl Henderson of UW Health receives her COVID-19 vaccine from athletic trainer Ashlee Smith in December. Reluctance to get the vaccine extends to the health care profession, though a UW Health official called it a "very small percentage." John Maniaci / UW Health
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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Today we highlight a Cap Times story about a major hurdle to thwarting the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin and nationwide: vaccine skepticism.

“Public health officials, from top U.S. infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to local health departments and medical groups, say the vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials that prove that they’re safe and effective,” Steven Elbow reports. “Despite the scourge that has killed 400,000 Americans and infected more than 24 million, there are many who want no part of a vaccine that offers a possible path to normality, or are holding out until they can be convinced it’s safe.”

Nearly 40% of Americans say they won’t take the vaccine or haven’t yet decided, Elbow reports, adding that community groups, medical organizations and advocates are stepping up to confront skepticism while state and national leaders lack a comprehensive strategy. 

Top Stories

Dr. Sheryl Henderson of UW Health receives her COVID-19 vaccine from athletic trainer Ashlee Smith in December. Reluctance to get the vaccine extends to the health care profession, though a UW Health official called it a “very small percentage.” John Maniaci / UW Health

We’re not gonna take it: The COVID-19 vaccine is here, along with efforts to overcome skepticism Cap Times 

Biden is ‘inheriting a disaster’ as coronavirus continues to grip nation amid chaotic vaccine rollout The Washington Post 

Amazon offers to help Biden administration with vaccinations The Verge 

With NFC championship in sight, Brown County health officials sound alarm about COVID-19 fatigue among Packers fans Green Bay-Press-Gazette

New health official isn’t saying whether she will avoid conflicts with former lobbying clients Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Some private nursing homes aren’t requiring worker vaccinations Janesville Gazette 

Local families of COVID victims reflect while the nation pauses to remember 400K dead TMJ4 News 

Gov. Evers officially issues new mask mandate WAOW 

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

Quotable

“Even when controlling for party identification and income and education, there’s something unique about living in a rural community that makes you more vaccine-hesitant than those living in urban and suburban communities.”

— Ashley Kirzinger, Kaiser Family Foundation associate director for public opinion and survey research, as quoted by WPR

“They are playing with our lives now. … I can’t afford my medication, I can’t afford my rent, I can’t afford my car payment.”

— Antonette Matis, one of of about 14,000 Wisconsinites waiting on state unemployment insurance appeals during the pandemic, speaking to TMJ4 News

Data to note

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services offers this snapshot of the state’s progress on vaccinations, last updated Tuesday.  

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations. 

DHS on Wednesday reported a seven-day average of 45 new daily COVID-19 deaths. The state’s full COVID-19 death toll is 5,562.

Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed.

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Calculate your exposure risk

In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a big risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: tips@wisconsinwatch.org

Iven Moede sanitizes his hands as students return to in-person schooling Tuesday at Highlands Elementary in Appleton. Wm. Glasheen / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

‘Their eyes were twinkling’: Appleton students return to classrooms for the first time since March Appleton Post-Crescent 

Wisconsin home sales hit record in 2020 despite pandemic WPR 

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The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.