Health officials aim to build COVID-19 vaccine trust as part of distribution plan

The goal is to make sure approved vaccines are distributed equitable, especially in neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic
CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the country awaits for emergency use authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine from the FDA, Illinois health officials prepare for its distribution.

The Public Health Directors said Illinois is ready to receive 400,000 doses of the vaccine when the first batch is shipped.

While that initial batch will be for health care professionals and first responders, many are wondering how it will eventually be distributed to the public.

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In the Chicago area, a newly-formed group of healthcare workers and dozens of other organizations are teaming up to make sure that approved vaccines are distributed equitably - especially in neighborhoods hit the hardest by the pandemic.

With a COVID-19 vaccine one step closer to reality, distribution plans and convincing people to take it are big challenges ahead.

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"I'm scared, I don't know if I'm going or take it," said Chicago resident Tina Leonard.

She is not alone.

Selling and educating people on the vaccine is part of Dr. Jerry Krishnan and Karriem Watson's mission. Representing UI Health and the Miles Square Health Center, they are part of a new group called "Vaccine Corp Partnership," which involves 35 private and public health systems and community organizations.

"I think the centerpiece of the vaccine partnership is to have equitable distribution of the vaccine," Krishnan said.

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Dr. Krishnan said the Vaccine Corp is not a vaccine army, but instead, it will serve as credible messengers to communities who have been hit hard by COVID-19, especially on the South and West sides.

"The conversation we want to have is addressing a lot of the medical mistrust, and addressing a lot of the myths and misperceptions about vaccine," Watson said.

Watson said the conversation begins by acknowledging the past

"Research has often been done to us and not done for us, and that sometimes is embedded in our memory," he added.

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Watson said conversations about health equity must be part of any distribution plan and the way to do is a grassroots effort in each neighborhood.

While it's likely to be months before a vaccine is available to the general public, the Vaccine Corp partnership believes now is the time to start educating communities. They hope some of the ground work has already been laid with outreach on testing and protocols.
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