Chicago vaccination rate increasing in West Englewood, West Garfield Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- West Garfield Park and West Englewood saw the biggest increase in residents getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, each jumping about 1% in a week, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. It's sign to community organizations that their hard work getting people vaccinated is paying off.

"We were the areas hardest hit by the COVID positive cases," said Yolanda Fields, the executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. "And now we're seeing that people are taking advantage of the resources available."

Breakthrough Urban Ministries has been partnering with hospitals, churches and neighborhood groups to expand access to the vaccine. Part of their strategy is going door to door to dispel myths about the vaccine.

"I think it's important that we know that people need to know the truth about the vaccines, and they need to hear from people that they trust, and that the medical community has to engage in a real way for that mistrust to be roll back," Fields said.

She said their vaccination van will be at 3330 W. Carroll Avenue Saturday.

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Health department officials said they have prioritized vaccinating residents in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 by working closely with community partners. Some community health centers said the vaccination uptick could also be driven by employer mandates.

"That really puts the decision front and center, so I think as these deadlines approach people are really starting to confront the decision and make the decision of getting the vaccine," said Ricardo Cifuentes, the VP of external affairs of Esperanza Health Centers.

The latest health department numbers show that 68% of Chicagoans age 12 and up are fully vaccinated. But just over 50% eligible residents are fully vaccinated in West Englewood. And about 46% of people 12 and up are fully vaccinated in West Garfield Park. These two neighborhoods are among several on the South and West sides with low vaccination rates.

Esperanza Health Centers recently reopened their mass vaccination site at 61st and Western.

"If we really want to reopen our schools and our businesses and get back to some semblance of what life was life before the pandemic, then yes, we're going to want to see some of those numbers increase substantially," Cifuentes said.
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