MADISON, Wis.— It’s a humid Saturday morning inside the Alliant Energy Center pavilion. The space that would once test over 1,000 people per day is now a mass vaccination site.
Turns out, Wisconsin is home to one of the most vaccinated counties in the country.
The cars just keep coming. One by one, they get assigned to a lane, and wait for their turn to get their COVID-19 shot.
“Very happy. I think that was the biggest feeling,” said Fabio Morarrieta.
He’s an essential worker, so he’s been vaccinated for a while. But he’s there to assist his brother Andres in getting a shot, because he doesn’t speak English.
They’re looking forward to getting to see family in Costa Rica once they’re both protected.
“[We’ll] be able to hang out with other vaccinated people indoors, go back to shared meals with our friends and family,” Mararrieta said.
More than 65% of all Dane County residents have at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s the highest among all counties over 300,000 people, fact-checked by the Wisconsin State Journal.
There’s a physician assistant named Sally who exudes joy as she jabs people with the needle. That’s not an exaggeration: she is truly thrilled to be able to help protect people.
Chris Johnson is there to get his second shot.
“The main thing that being vaccinated means to me is that I can actually see my friends and family,” he said. “It’s been a year and three months now. And it’s been really lonely.”
He and his close circle of friends have already made plans for once everybody is in the clear.
“We’ve gotten a series of dinners planned, so we’re all gonna go to each other’s apartments or houses, and alternate cooking dinner for each other,” he said. “I’ve also got plans to go see my grandma in Illinois.”
The Alliant Energy Center had its busiest vaccination day ever about a week before, on Saturday, May 15. That was the first weekend kids aged 12-15 were eligible.
A big black car pulls up to the vaccination station. There are adults in the front, and a few kids in the back.
“What an honor,” Sally said through her mask and shield. “We get to vaccinate a whole car!”
Her feet bounce off the ground toward a child in the backseat, who’s very nervous to get his shot. She coaches him through it.
“There ya go, that’s all there is to it,” she tells the boy, who was not happy. “I’m so proud of you!”
Having such a high vaccination rate in Dane County doesn’t just increase the protection of herd immunity. It also means more people will follow suit, creating even more protection. Multiple people said Saturday they were getting vaccinated because everyone around them has gotten it too.
“It’s just peace of mind,” said one woman. “I’m young, I’m healthy, but I’ll feel better telling everyone I’m safe.”
It brings some Madisonians a sense of great pride that their community has so enthusiastically adopted the vaccine.
“It’s good to know other people are as serious about their health, and everybody else’s health,” Johnson said.
The hope is that even more find a vaccine and get the shot.
“So many places, there’s a lot of people that don’t want to get vaccinated, or they don’t have the ability to do it,” Morarrieta said. “It’s a great opportunity and great privilege.”
While Dane County comes in first place, two others aren’t far behind. About 63% of Door County residents have at least one dose, as do 59% of people in Bayfield County.