Chicago health clinics work to target monkeypox vaccine in Black, Latino communities

Saturday, August 6, 2022 3:25AM
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As Monkeypox cases rise in Illinois, local health officials are holding vaccination clinics around the city for those most at risk.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- While local health officials acknowledge much of the access to the monkeypox vaccine has been on Chicago's North Side, there is work to get information and vaccine to other parts of the city.

There were appointments for just 100 monkeypox vaccines at a clinic sponsored by CALOR and Alivio Medical Center for a pop-up clinic at Arturo Velasquez Institute near Pilsen.

RELATED | Chicago health officials emphasize testing, prevention amid demand for Monkeypox vaccine

The clientele was predominantly members of the Latino community and organizers say more needs to be done.

"14% of the vaccines have gone to the Latino community, yet the infection rate is somewhere around 38%," Alivio Medica Center CEO Esther Corpuz said. "There's definitely a disparity in those numbers."

"It's important that we go out there," said Milani Varela, a CALOR Health Educator. "Like I mentioned, West Side, South Side -- all over Chicago -- to make sure that we are the ones going to the communities and not waiting for the communities to come to us."

RELATED | Chicago health officials ramp up monkeypox awareness outreach ahead of Market Days

In Englewood, the staff at the Howard Brown clinic are offering monkeypox vaccines and organizing events on the South and West sides.

"We want to make sure there is enough vaccine, access to medical care for community members here that have historically not been able to access the care that they need," said Channyn Parker, Director of Community Engagement for Howard Brown Health Clinic.

This year's Market Days Festival in Norhalsted kicks off Saturday and the festival is about more than fun and community this year.

"I am worried about monkeypox, but I'm hoping to be able to get vaccinated tomorrow here at the event, so that way it won't be hanging over my head anymore," said Market Days antendee Jesse Robbins.

Signs will be posted along Halsted St warning patrons about the outbreak, at local establishments like Sidetrack, informational cards are on bar tops and tables.

Sidetrack General Manager Brad Balof said, staff have mostly gotten vacinated.

"The LGBTQ+ community is no stranger to sort of going side-by-side with activism, awareness, messaging alongside partying," Balof said.

The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact, including sex. Health officials say there is some risk from kissing, sharing drinks, cigarettes and dancing in a crowded space.with people not fully-clothed.

"I also want to assure the public that this virus is not an airborne virus," said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Director of IDPH.

In addition to Market Days, the vaccine is being offered at events on the South and West sides to reach the Black and Latino communities.