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This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.

The campaign is using billboards, buses and social media to get the word out. (Photo by PrincessSafiya Byers)

Local social media influencers and community members have partnered with the Milwaukee County Public Health Collaborative, or MCPHC, to create a public awareness campaign about COVID-19 vaccinations.

The two-part public awareness campaign seeks to increase vaccination rates among young children and adults 65 and older. It focuses on Milwaukee’s lowest-vaccinated areas, including ZIP codes 53206, 53216, 53218 and 53210, which are all on the North Side.

The “Verified Voices” campaign targets parents of young children and addresses the power of social media and misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines and children. It encourages people to find resources they trust when making decisions about their children’s vaccinations, including health care providers.

“Eligibility for children six months and older to get the vaccine recently opened up and we know parents have questions,” said Aziz Abdullah the co-founder of InPower, a marketing agency that is partnering with the campaign. “We want to make sure they know and understand their options.”

Four influencers, Kennaye Lewis, a recent winner of Netflix’s “Floor is Lava”; DJ The Barber, a local celebrity barber; OG Tweezy, a community leader and event promoter; and It’s Murby, a makeup artist and entrepreneur, assisted in that campaign.

“Social media can be a helpful tool for finding information regarding your health as long as you are making sure the pages and sources are credible,” said Lewis. “Using .gov sites is always helpful, and if you want to be sure, going straight to your doctor with questions is best.”

The “Boosted & Blessed” campaign focuses on people ages 65 and older and highlights the beauty of life as an older adult and the blessings worth protecting by being boosted. It features four residents who share insights into their life stories and reasons for “feeling blessed” and “being boosted.”

Community members from all walks of life participated in the campaign.

Debra Lewis is the gift shop manager and participant advocate at Milwaukee County’s Clinton Rose Senior Center. Valley Hollins and Gwen Washington are instructors and participants with SilverSneakers, a fitness and wellness program for seniors. Henry Lofton and Justin Roby are a local grandfather and grandson connected through gardening and family heritage. And Muhammad Abdullah is a long-standing community activist and organizer.

“As older people, we have pre-existing health conditions, so I wanted to encourage my peers to get boosted,” said Washington. “I hopeful that we can lower these numbers and help our community.”

The campaigns include 19 billboards, social media content and work with grassroots organizations to get handouts to people. And there are ads on buses, TV and radio.

The campaigns are supported by HealthyMKE.com, a local, multicultural health information initiative that’s funded by a Wisconsin Department of Health Services Vaccine Community Outreach 2.0 grant.

“These campaigns are built by the community for the community in collaboration with our public health leaders,” said Katie Lepak, project officer with the MCPHC, which works to coordinate and elevate a unified public health system in collaboration with key partners in Milwaukee County.

“We’re proud of its authenticity and the local village that came together to make sure our messengers and messages resonate with our diverse audiences and address the questions and misinformation that persist around COVID-19 vaccination,” Lepak said.

For more information

For more information on the campaigns visit https://www.healthymke.com/.

For more information on vaccines visit https://getvaccineanswers.org/questions.

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