The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by

COVID-19 is taking rural Wisconsin in the wrong direction: more than 3,000 cases a day (disproportionately rural), spikes in hospitalizations, shortage of ICU beds, rising death rate, burnout of doctors and nurses and more children’s cases. This tragedy is preventable through vaccinations. It’s long past time to depoliticize vaccinations and end the pandemic.

Our vaccines were developed by doctors and scientists during the Trump administration, using years of research and technological breakthroughs. Then the Biden administration implemented a comprehensive system of getting shots into arms. However, many are either hesitant or opposed to being vaccinated. Please listen to doctors.

The American Medical Association said: “The simple fact is unless a significant percentage of our population is vaccinated against COVID-19 – we could be stuck fighting this virus for many more months or even years to come. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to come together, listen to the science and mandate vaccination.”

Vaccines work. The state Department of Health Services said unvaccinated Wisconsinites were 3.9 times more likely to become infected than the vaccinated, 8.6 times more likely to require hospitalization and 10.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19. The grim reality is that 1 in 680 Wisconsinites have died of COVID-19 (CDC). Moreover, there may be long-term health consequences of harm from the virus to the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. Then there are the kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said: “As of September 9, nearly 5.3 million children (over 130,000 in Wisconsin) have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. … After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with nearly 500,000 cases in the past 2 weeks. … (The) virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as (having) emotional and mental health effects.” And, children’s cases are highest in states with low vaccination rates.

What’s needed is a two-pronged strategy of mandates and persuasion. The Wisconsin Medical Society and state hospital systems support mandating all health care professionals and staff to be vaccinated. Most national health care and hospital groups also support doing so. And, the Biden administration has mandated vaccinations for all federal employees, the military and private employers with 100+ employees.

The conservative National Association of Manufacturers and Business Roundtable are broadly supportive. The Business Roundtable said: “Over the past several weeks many companies have decided to implement a vaccine mandate for some or all of their employees, a decision we applaud.”

Persuasion is important. Mandates will not cover or reach all in Wisconsin who are not vaccinated. The Evers administration should convene a rural summit with farm organizations and other stakeholders on vaccination, focusing on respectful engagement and addressing misinformation. How about a rural-urban advisory committee of teenagers on vaccination? Moreover, the Milwaukee School Board should mandate vaccinations for its students if persuasion is inadequate. Finally, Wisconsin must redouble all efforts to reduce racial and rural disparities, mistrust and disrespect.

We are Wisconsin. We can defeat COVID-19 with vaccinations.

– Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.


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