Mexican Fiesta COVID vaccine clinic offers shots, information

Mexican Fiesta is back at Henry Maier Festival Park after skipping 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guests can leave Mexican Fiesta after hearing great music and with a full stomach, but health officials also want attendees to head back home vaccinated.

"Our data did show that the Latino community has very low vaccination numbers," said Linda Gonzalez Kusak, Children's Wisconsin community partnerships manager. "This isn’t a situation where we’re trying to tell you what to do, but more so provide you the information."

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Throughout the three-day event, Children's Wisconsin is partnering with the Milwaukee Health Department to offer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They are trying to reach people like Jenna Castillo.

"It kind of feels like people shouldn’t have to be forced to be vaccinated – whether it’s their decision or not," Castillo said. "It’s good to offer it out, to each his own if they want to get it."

Mexican Fiesta 2021 at Henry Maier Festival Park

Castillo is from Aurora, Illinois and is unvaccinated by choice. She was among those wondering why a vaccination or negative COVID-19 test was not required to enter Mexican Fiesta – entry requirements for Summerfest at the same location next week.

"Summerfest took a stance," said Nick Tomaro, Milwaukee Health Department emergency preparedness director. "From a public health perspective, we’re obviously very fond of it – encouraging vaccination and requiring it."

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On Friday alone, Milwaukee Health Department leaders said 20 people rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine. The push mimics other pop-up and mobile vaccination sites, like the free cream puff incentive at Wisconsin State Fair that led to 608 people getting vaccintated.

"What are your questions? If you’re not comfortable, let us sit with you and answer your questions. Get rid of all that misinformation you may have come into contact with," said Gonzalez Kusak.

Groups like Forward Latino said Hispanics are the largest minority group in the state, but their vaccination rate is trailing behind other populations. Health officials said a big reason for that is a lack of education regarding the vaccine and accessibility.

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