Kamala Harris heads to Chicago Tuesday to focus on vaccine equity

The vice president’s visit to Chicago will be her first since she was sworn in.

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Vice President Kamal Harris will visit Chicago Tuesday to focus on COVID-19 vaccine equity.

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Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Chicago Tuesday to focus on COVID-19 vaccine equity.

Harris comes to Chicago as city and state officials — all Democrats committed to the various equity issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic — continue to address problems relating to equity goals as well as overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Harris’ visit to Chicago will be her first time in the city since she was sworn in as vice president.

A spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the Sun-Times the mayor earlier in March personally invited Harris to come to Chicago to see the city’s COVID equity initiatives.

In a tweet, Lightfoot said she was “excited” to welcome Harris to Chicago. “Our team prioritized equity in the rollout of our COVID vaccines. I’m looking forward to sharing details with her.”

On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a pilot program to “reduce COVID-19 vaccination disparities,” especially for those 65 and older.

“Prioritizing equity has been a critical component in every phase of the state’s vaccine administration plan,” the governor said in a statement.

And Lightfoot has been grappling with the COVID-19 vaccine scandal at Loretto Hospital, an institution that was supposed to target underserved communities on the West Side. Instead, in one example, workers at Trump International Hotel & Tower got shots at the hotel from Loretto’s stockpile.

Much of Harris’ official travel since becoming vice president on Jan. 21 has been to promote the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID package, called the “American Rescue Plan,” or to discuss the COVID vaccine equity issues from availability to vaccine hesitation, especially among African Americans.

The Biden administration early on established a COVID equity task force. The United Center was selected by the Biden White House as a location for a mass vaccination center in Chicago in part because it was thought — though it did not always turn out that way — a centralized facility could mitigate logistical barriers to getting the shot.

Harris, speaking to Philadelphia’s WHYY-FM earlier this month, said, “The whole point is to make sure that we are guaranteeing as much as possible that everyone, regardless of where they live, their socioeconomic background or status, race, gender, that they have equal access to the vaccine. It’s a big concern of ours.

“And as we know, this pandemic has been vicious in the way it has attacked the American people. It has disproportionately impacted people of color and particularly African Americans and Latinos, both in terms of the contraction of the virus but also death rate. And you know that that’s not to mention all of the economic impact and the educational impact, which also is the subject of our concern about equitable distribution of resources. So there’s a lot of work for us to do, both at the federal level and obviously at the state, local level as well.”

Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff will head to Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon for the Easter weekend. On Monday, she will be in Oakland for an event to spotlight, among other subjects, water infrastructure and small business. She will travel from California to Chicago on Tuesday.

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