Illinois’ officials hope to encourage Black residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois health officials are encouraging Black and Brown residents to get the coronavirus vaccine, saying they are currently under vaccinated compared to the rest of the state’s residents.

So far, 60% of adult residents have received their first dose, including 85% of residents ages 65 and older. To further expand vaccine accessibility, state-run vaccination sites will now accept walk-ins in addition to pre-booked appointments.

Pritzker, along with Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and other health professionals addressed vaccine hesitancy among Black residents, at a press conference on Thursday, during which it was announced that the state will loosen restrictions during a ‘Bridge Phase’ beginning May 14th.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on families, particularly Black and Brown families. It’s important for family physicians, who have spent years, sometimes over multiple generations, building trust with the families they treat, to encourage and engage with patients and their families to get them vaccinated,” said Dr. Whitney Lyn of Sengstacke Clinic, Provident Hospital.

Health experts have underscored the vaccines’ safety, noting that their development was unusually quick but based on years of previous research and those used in the U.S. have shown no signs of serious side effects in studies of tens of thousands of people.

But in a recent poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 57% of Black Americans said they’d received at least one shot or planned to be vaccinated, compared with 68% of white Americans.

Black people make up 30% of Chicago’s population but, early in the pandemic, more than half the COVID-19 deaths. That gap has narrowed, though illness disparities that explain that risk persist, including high rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Black people are more likely to have jobs that don’t provide health insurance or the luxury of working safely at home in a pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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