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Tale of two cities? COVID-19 vaccination rate three times higher in parts of the Loop than South, West Side

“I can’t emphasize enough, week after week, we are very, very strongly seeing our cases, hospitalizations, and even our deaths being concentrated among people who are not yet vaccinated,” Dr. Allison Arwady said. “More and more and more, it’s the neighborhoods that are not as well vaccinated where COVID is landing, and I expect that to continue to get worse.”

People wait for their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a mobile clinic that’s parked in front of West Town Bakery and Diner in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood on Tuesday. About 38% of Illinois residents are fully vaccinated.
People wait for their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a mobile clinic that’s parked in front of West Town Bakery and Diner in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood on Tuesday. About 38% of Illinois residents are fully vaccinated.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

COVID-19 vaccination rates are three times higher in some downtown neighborhoods compared to areas of the South and West sides, according to new city data.

Every single resident with a 60603 ZIP code in the heart of the Loop has gotten at least one shot. Rates exceed 92% in nearby 60602 and 60604.

But venture west toward Garfield Park, and just 30% of residents in the 60624 ZIP have received a dose. Rates are about the same in the South Austin neighborhood, as well as 60633 in the far southeast corner of the city.

Not even 27% of Englewood residents in the 60621 ZIP have gotten a shot, the lowest rate in Chicago.

The latest ZIP code vaccination data, published earlier this week on a revamped city web database, highlights the shot disparity that the city’s top doctor says will result in even more grief for neighborhoods of color that have already suffered a disproportionate brunt of the pandemic.

“I can’t emphasize enough, week after week, we are very, very strongly seeing our cases, hospitalizations and even our deaths being concentrated among people who are not yet vaccinated,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. “More and more and more, it’s the neighborhoods that are not as well vaccinated where COVID is landing, and I expect that to continue to get worse.”

About 48% of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot, which keeps pace with the national average. Twenty-nine city ZIP codes are exceeding that pace, while 16 have rates of at least 37%. The remaining 11 are well below it — and those are all located on the South and West sides.

The disparities correspond in the city’s vax breakdown by race as well: about 55% of white Chicagoans and 53% of those of Asian descent have gotten a shot, compared to 39% of Latino residents and 32% of Black residents.

That checks out for Englewood Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), who said institutions at all levels have “failed folks in Black and Brown communities from the time COVID hit.”

“When it comes to vaccinations, people don’t trust the government, and I can’t blame them. They’re scared,” Taylor said. “First we couldn’t get any testing. Then a bunch of our vaccinations went to people in the suburbs. Now I’m gonna trust you to shoot me in the arm? I don’t see it.”

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), pictured at a protest outside Mercy Hospital and Medical Center last summer.
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), pictured at a protest outside Mercy Hospital and Medical Center last summer.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Taylor said she was reluctant to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine herself until she became fed up with “living in fear” in her day-to-day life. The key to boosting vaccination rates will be for residents to see other people they trust getting their doses, she said.

“I’m relieved that I got it, but I’m just concerned people in the community don’t know enough about it to make that choice for themselves. A lot of people are struggling with other things, trying to put food on the table, scraping by everyday. Going in for a shot is the last thing on their minds,” Taylor said.

That’s why the city is “really working to bring vaccine to where people are,” Arwady said, by deploying the city’s “vaccination bus” to under-vaccinated areas and partnering with more community groups for walk-up clinics.

“We know there are a lot of people who may not have been vaccinated yet, not because they’ve said, ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but just because it hasn’t been as convenient or as easily accessible as it could be, so that’s a lot of what our strategy is now,” Arwady said.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

As officials urge more residents to roll up their sleeves more than five months into the vaccination campaign, fewer and fewer are doing so each day. The state’s seven-day average for daily shots administered — now standing at 62,884 — has shrunk by more than half since mid-April.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 117,381 more doses were administered, but that figure includes some shots given “over the past several days” due to a pharmacy data reporting issue.

Statewide, just over 38% of the state population are considered fully vaccinated and 58% of those over 16 have gotten at least one shot.

Meanwhile, new cases keep piling up, if at a slower pace.

The state reported 1,633 new cases were diagnosed among 67,166 tests, keeping the average statewide positivity rate at a two-month low of 2.3%.

The virus also claimed 28 more lives, including two Cook County men in their 20s and 30s. Illinois pandemic death toll is up to 22,494.

To sign up for a vaccine appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.