CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health officials announced new initiatives Monday to ensure racial equity in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, after initial data shows low vaccination rates in Black and Latinx communities.
Lightfoot and public health officials released the plan Monday in conjunction with the state moving into Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution, in which an estimated 3.2 million people statewide are eligible for inoculation.
‘Protect Chicago’ has been the primary plan in Chicago’s response to the pandemic, including vaccine distribution.
The city’s plan released Monday, called ‘Protect Chicago Plus’, includes three main strategies in vaccine distribution:
- The plan will target 15 high-need communities based on the city’s COVID-19 vulnerability index to ensure a significant portion of the city’s supply is allocated to those communities.
- It pushes vaccine and city resources into those communities, partnering with community stakeholders to help develop vaccine clinics and engagement strategies to encourage community members to get inoculated.
- The plan also works with stakeholders to identify where vaccine access will most quickly decrease risk of transmission for COVID-19, aiming to remove barriers to getting these individuals vaccinated.
The program includes partnerships with faith-based organizations, social service agencies and City Council members to host vaccination events in the future. Additionally, the plan will deploy outreach teams to share information about vaccines and to help community members sign up for appointments.
The neighborhoods initially targeted in ‘Protect Chicago Plus’ include the following neighborhoods:
- West Englewood
- New City
- Gage Park
- North Lawndale
- South Lawndale
- Chicago Lawn
- Archer Heights
- Washington Heights
- South Deering
- Belmont Cragin
- Humboldt Park
Due to many health care partners who are vaccinating individuals throughout Chicago not reporting race and ethnicity data, Dr. Alison Arwady has signed a health order requiring providers to do so and report the data to CDPH.
Initial geographic data on who has received the vaccine shows the most impacted communities lag far behind those in and around downtown Chicago and on the Near North Side.
This is partly due to the fact that frontline health care workers have been the focus of early vaccine efforts, many of whom live in these communities. However, the city stresses it further highlights the need to focus on equity.
Mayor Lightfoot reiterated the safety of the vaccine to the community while urging Chicagoans to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.
“I know there is some hesitancy out in the community to get it, especially among our Black and Latinx Chicagoans, that’s based on the real history of mistreatment in our country. But as a Black woman, I’m stepping up and getting it, and we need everyone to do the same,” Lightfoot said.