Racial inequality Evident in COVID-19 Vaccinations in Chicago’s South and West Sides
By Andrea Morales and Elyse Igliori
Dr. Susan Bleasdale, University of Illinois at Chicago’s medical director of infection control and infectious diseases, was one out of the many directors handling the COVID-19 pandemic who noticed the severity of the disease on the city’s South and West Sides
“In our black and brown communities they tend to be individuals that are ongoing essential workers too, people that were coming from these communities and adding socioeconomic challenges” she said.
“These tended to be communities with people that are having to continue to work. I think there’s some uniqueness in the multi-generational homes too, which in Chicago tends to be a little more Latinx, so these multi-generational homes lead to major outbreaks.”
People of color who live in these communities didn’t have the luxury of staying at home at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. As essential workers, many could not avoid the high risk of infection breakouts among their homes.
According to the City of Chicago Data Portal, ZIP code 60611, which the primary population is white, has had very low weekly and cumulative cases on the week of April 11 with only 34 weekly cases and 2,207 cumulative cases
When looking at ZIP code 60629 located on the northeast side, the weekly cases was 149 and cumulative cases was 16,798 on the week of April 11.
Communities that are mostly populated by Latinx, such as Little Village: ZIP code 60623 continue to be one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. With the weekly cases of April 11 being 115 and cumulative cases being 10,649.
According to CBS Chicago in May of last year “Hispanic’s make up about 17% of the state. But they also make up about 32% of the state’s positive COVID-19 tests.” ZIP code 60632 population is currently 83% Hispanic and on April 11 there have been 13,040 cases and 87,784 tests done since March 15, 2020.
Esperanza Health Center, a health center based in Little Village and Pilsen, has seen the damage that the pandemic created for Little Village.
Miguel Blancarte Jr., Esperanza’s first director of COVID-19 response and community outreach, helped patients and Little Village throughout the beginning of the pandemic and the process of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Esperanza was actually the first to start doing testing on the Southwest side” he said. “Esperanza started doing testing in March of last year and that was the same time where the World Health Organization announced it as a global pandemic. Even before the city really started responding to this, Esperanza was already doing it, at least being able to provide with the testing and now it’s the same thing with distributing the vaccine.”
Health centers such as Esperanza made a head start in dealing with the pandemic because of the knowledge that ZIP codes such as: 60623, 60632, 60629 and 60608 were the locations that were going to be needing the most aid.
Since then, Esperanza has opened a vaccination center in the Brighton Park neighborhood near West Loop, Pilsen, and Little Village. February 4, 2021 is when they started vaccinating frontline workers at this location.
COVID-19 vaccine distribution started in December, which allowed the country to have a glimmer of hope in reducing the virus. As the vaccine became available, the official COVID-19 vaccine tiers were commencing with Phase 1A: people over the age of 65, frontline workers, and patients at the health center.
UIC’s health center, UI Health has also partnered with the city along with Esperanza Health Center’s in order to make mass vaccination sites happen all around Chicago.
Dr. Susan Bleansdale said UIC has “offered vaccines to Inglewood in the beginning of March, Back of the Yards started on March 17, Humboldt Park starts on April 1st and West Englewood starts April 10”
Not only are the locations that UIC is offering vaccines available to those who have been affected by the pandemic the most, but the United Center is now being used as a mass vaccination center for the city of Chicago.
The United Center is being used to focus on making the vaccines available to primarily individuals who live in the South and West sides.
According to the City of Chicago Data Portal as of April 21, there are currently 180 ZIP codes all throughout the city who are distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.
On the northeast side there are seven ZIP codes, such as 60618 and 60639 who have distributed 1st dose vaccinations ranging from 34,822 to 42,032 individuals.
In the south and west sides there are only three ZIP codes who have distributed the same range of individuals in the northeast sides. These ZIP codes are 60629, 60632 and 60608.
As of April 28, 3.73 million people in Illinois are fully vaccinated, which includes the two week period after the second vaccine shot.
Illinois as a whole is vaccinating more people than before with the amount of vaccination spots made available.
With new vaccination sites popping up all over state, the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
As vaccinations are now open to most Americans, we see people become hesitant about getting the shot, especially after negative backlash on how fast the vaccine was created and available to the public.
A total of 9,386,135 doses of vaccine have been delivered to Illinois since December, and 7,482,650 doses have been administered statewide. Illinois is now averaging 132,810 vaccinations per day over the past week.
Chicagoan Monica Rusnak said she is unsure of the vaccine. “I would most likely get Pfizer than Moderna as my second choice” she said “I am a bit iffy on Johnson & Johnson because of every article that is out there.”
The CDC and FDA recently paused the Johnson and Johnson vaccine distribution after April 13 due to six cases of rare blood clotting, and one dead.
According to the Washington Post, all victims were women ages 18–48. The blood clots also appear to be the same issue caused by a vaccine being distributed in Europe called AstraZeneca.
Other than Johnson and Johnson, the other two vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer have had good results. They both are proven to be effective against new Covid-19 variants and safe against death.
Now that vaccination spots are opening up, and more Americans are eligible, we expect to see more Americans become vaccinated in the coming weeks.
According to NPR, as of April 15, 22.7% of the Illinois population is fully vaccinated, with 39.2% of Illinois residents completing the first dosage.
State health officials predict that by Aug. 6, 2021, 85% of Illinois will be fully vaccinated going at the rate the state currently is.
Miguel Blancarte Jr. is hoping “to bridge gaps between organizations that may have not been in touch prior to but now we’re working together in order to respond to primarily the situation for individuals in the Southwest” he said “for our black and our brown communities, I would hope that there will be more unity as well.”