COVID-19 vaccines not reaching Chicago's Latinx neighborhoods, community groups say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's Latinx community made an effort to make sure its most vulnerable members have access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Daysha DeValle, who lives in a multigenerational household, lost three great grandparents to COVID-19 and also contracted the virus a months ago.

"It's not that I want the vaccine, it's that I need the vaccine to keep providing for my household as well as for my community," DeValle said.

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COVID-19 hit Latinx neighborhoods hard, and positivity rates continue to be well above the city and state average. However, the vaccine is not making to neighborhoods like Humboldt Park.

"We just want the city to know we have the plan, we have people, we have the doctors, we have the specialists," said Jessica Gutierrez, Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

Several Puerto Rican community groups came up with a plan to make Humboldt Park Health, the former Norwegian Hospital, into a vaccination hub. The hospital served as the community's testing site for months. Hospital officials said while the infrastructure is in place, the only thing missing is the vaccine.

"One week, we get some, the following week, we get nothing. Two week go by, we got no vaccine," said Jose Sanchez, Humboldt Park Health CEO.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the disparities in the Latinx community unacceptable. The city came out with a plan to prioritize vaccine distribution in 15 of the hardest hit COVID-19 neighborhoods following Mayor Lightfoot's statement.

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Elected officials and community groups said it is time for the city to follow through. They said most minority neighborhoods lack access to vaccines.

"I want to work with the mayor. I want to make sure that this is not politics, right, that this is getting people vaccinated," Gutierrez said.

Latinx residents and community groups hope to get more answers Thursday when the mayor's office hosts a virtual town hall on equitable distribution.
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