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City’s new vaccination plan aims to vaccinate 77% of all residents by year’s end

The Protect Chicago 77 vaccination initiative draws its name from the city’s 77 official community areas.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady answer questions at the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center in the Englewood neighborhood Thursday morning, Sept. 23, 2021. Mark Capapas/Sun-Times
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady announce the Protect Chicag 77 initiative at the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center in the Englewood neighborhood Thursday morning.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times,

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced a new citywide COVID-19 vaccine initiative.

The Protect Chicago 77 community engagement campaign aims to get at least 77% of Chicago residents 12 and older at least partially vaccinated by year’s end.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us,” Lightfoot said at a press conference in Englewood Thursday morning. “The Delta variant is still very present and it is deadly. So we are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”

More than 1.6 million Chicagoans 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Every Chicago ZIP code has at least half of eligible Chicagoans — or those 12 and older — partially vaccinated, Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner, said Thursday.

But vaccination rates across the 77 community areas vary. While places like Lincoln Square and Lake View are nearing 80%, others like Austin or Chatham are below 60%.

Lightfoot said the city plans to work closely with trusted community sources to reach that 77% vaccination rate goal. That includes Team Englewood, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and Community Organized Relief Effort.

Videos offering tips on how to talk to vaccine-hesitant friends and family will be part of the initiative, as will door-to-door campaigns to bring the vaccine to those who can’t or prefer not to leave their homes.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady were at the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center in the Englewood neighborhood Thursday morning, Sept. 23, 2021 to promote their new vaccination effort, Protect Chicago 77.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady were at the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center in the Englewood neighborhood Thursday morning to promote their new vaccination effort, Protect Chicago 77.
Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

Arwady also said the city health department wants this campaign to align with its flu season work, including the new COVID-19 booster shot for those 65 and older.

“People can get (their) flu shot and the first or second [coronavirus] dose or booster at the same time,” at CDPH clinics, she said.

As flu season ramps up, Arwady said her department will pay close attention to any strain on the health care system.

“One of the reasons why we’re pushing COVID vaccine for everybody is to help protect the hospitals,” she said. “Our goal is to stay open and do that safely. The things that, for me, could change that conversation would be if we really saw things get very out of control, to a point where we were threatening our health care system.”

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter for the Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.