Black Chicago Community Leaders Call For Black Residents To Be Injected 1st With Rushed Covid Vaccine

Black Chicago Community Leaders Call For Black Residents To Be Injected 1st With Rushed Covid Vaccine

covid vaccine
Black Chicago Community Leaders Call For Black Residents To Be Injected 1st With Rushed Covid Vaccine (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Chicago just received its first shipment of Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine. A batch of Moderna‘s vaccine is expected to follow and although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to grant emergency approval for distribution, Chicago’s Black community leaders are already demanding that Black residents be the first to receive protection against the virus.

A group of Black and brown leaders recently gathered to urge members of Congress and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to prioritize the distribution of any coronavirus vaccine to Black and brown communities hit hard by the pandemic.

“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we’re asking and demanding that we have a sense of trust by allowing us to be considered to be first when it comes to distribution,” Pastor John Harrell, of Chicago’s Proviso Baptist Church, told reporters.

Chicago’s Black residents, like Black people nationwide, have been disproportionately affected by the virus. In April, 70 percent of covid-19 deaths in Chicago were Black people. 

Despite the urging of community leaders, there remains a major distrust of the medical field by the Black community in Chicago and beyond. 

Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat, traced the mistrust of medical experiments back to the U.S. government’s Tuskegee syphilis research, which withheld treatment of poor Black men over a 40-year period.

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“That goes deep,” Ford told the Chicago Sun-Times. “And when you think about how the government has failed … the Black and Brown communities, that’s the trust that Black people struggle with.”

Meanwhile, large academic hospitals in Chicago have had a tough time recruiting members of the Black community to test vaccines.

“We have to make sure that people trust that the vaccine will work and we do everything that we can to bring an understanding to our community about how important it is to take the vaccine and to be able to trust it,” Ford added.

Several groups are working to get Black communities to consider the vaccine, including the Black Coalition Against Covid-19.

A high level of mistrust and misinformation has plagued the response to this virus, said Reed Tuckson, one of the health care workers behind the Black Coalition.

“There is a reluctance on the part of many Americans, but particularly Americans of color, to follow the guidance that has been offered,” Tuckson told NPR. “So what we are trying to do with this effort is to speak directly to this fundamental issue of distrust and misinformation that results in, unfortunately, premature death and preventable misery and suffering.”

In Boston, Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church enlisted Dr. Stephen Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to help get her parishioners and the Black community behind covid-19 vaccines. 

Walker asked Fauci to speak to her parishioners via a Zoom meeting because she was shocked by the level of vaccine distrust within her own community.

“I was really surprised at how many parishioners, how many people, not just in the church but in the community, said they weren’t going to take the vaccine,” she said. “So I wanted to do something about that because I sincerely believe we need to take it.”

During the meeting, Fauci told parishioners that for him and other doctors, offering life-saving vaccines is not about politics — it is his purpose, WBUR reported.

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“It is something that is really extraordinarily unfortunate, and the reasons for that, I do hope when this is all over, we address, mainly the social determinants of health and the inequities that you’ve been faced with, essentially forever,” Dr. Fauci said. “Don’t deprive yourself of the advantage of an extraordinarily important advance in science by not getting vaccinated. Protect yourselves, your family and your community.”

Just 48 percent of Black respondents said they would probably or definitely take a free vaccine, according to a recent study commissioned by the Covid Collaborative, a coalition of health care experts and former government officials, Chicago Sun-Times reported.