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Medical College Of Wisconsin CEO Warns Of Delta Variant, Urges More COVID-19 Vaccinations

Chuck Quirmbach
A thank-you sign at the now-closed vaccination site at the Wisconsin Center. Other vaccination sites remain open in the Milwaukee area.

A leading Milwaukee doctor and a prominent businessperson are urging more COVID-19 vaccinations, because of the possibility that a dangerous coronavirus variant may be headed here.

Dr. John Raymond is President and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin. He said the Delta variant, which first surfaced in India, is triggering a surge of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

"It's a troubling one. Where you're having this Delta variant infect younger people who are getting much more ill than they were earlier in the pandemic, and getting sicker, faster, and as we know, the transmissibility of the Delta variant, is very high. It's double the UK variant, which was double most of the other variants. So, we need to pay attention to both countries, just in terms of what might happen here," said Raymond during an online meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC).

Raymond said he expects the Delta variant to be in the U.S. within four to six weeks. He said vaccines currently available here are effective against the variant. "But only, if you take both doses of the two-dose regimen. If you just take a single dose [of a two-dose regimen], it does not give particularly good protection against the Delta variant," said Raymond.

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Chuck Quirmbach
Dr. John Raymond, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, speaks during Monday's meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

To be considered fully vaccinated the Pfizer and Moderna brand vaccines require two doses, while the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson requires only one dose.

The call for more vaccinations comes as growth in the number of people getting shots remains slow. Statewide as of June 15, 49% of people have had a least one shot and 44% have completed the vaccine series. Milwaukee percentages are slightly lower. Raymond said he's not confident Wisconsin will reach President Joe Biden's nationwide goal of 70% vaccinations by July 4th.

But GMC Board Chairperson Greg Marcus said the state should keep trying.

"We were in the top ten in vaccinations for a long time. But we have hit a wall. With the Delta variant coming, now is the time. We have a window. As they say, we shouldn't waste our shot. Let's do everything we can to get people vaccinated, in all of our communities. But especially our communities of color. If you look at a map, if you go to the Milwaukee County website, you can see where we're seeing under-vaccination, and it really is in our central city," said Marcus.

Marcus urged more GMC members — many who own or run businesses — to consider holding vaccination clinics for employees and their families.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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