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Here’s how you can help persuade vulnerable residents to get COVID-19 shots

Some of Chicago’s Black and Latino communities are showing very low rates of vaccinations. A city training program aims to recruit volunteers to increase those numbers.

Almost half of Chicago’s residents have received at least one COVID shot, though a number of Black and Latino communities are seeing very low vaccination rates. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As the city continues to see low COVID-19 vaccination rates in a number of Black and Latino communities, Chicago health officials announced a program to recruit residents who want to volunteer to persuade others about the safety and importance of getting shots.

Residents can sign up for a two-hour free online class through Malcolm X College that aims to train vaccine “ambassadors” who will attempt to increase vaccination rates in areas around the city seeing both low inoculation rates and high numbers of infections.

“We’re launching the vaccine ambassador course to educate people and to address the mistrust and the vaccine hesitancy that exists in many areas today,” said David Sanders, Malcolm X president. “People are more likely to listen to their friends and neighbors.”

Anyone interested can register for the course, part of the city college’s continuing education program, at //pages.ccc.edu/apply/mxvaccine/.

Blacks and Latinos badly lag white Chicagoans for getting vaccinated, city data show. Some ZIP codes on the predominantly Black South Side show some of the lowest vaccination rates.

In the Englewood ZIP code 60621, for instance, just over a quarter of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to city data. In the white-majority Streeterville ZIP code 60611, almost 70% of residents received at least one shot.

The COVID positivity rate in the Englewood ZIP code is 7%, more than twice the rate in the Streeterville ZIP code, according to the city data.

“COVID continues to hit the hardest in predominantly Black and predominantly Latinx communities,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner.

And while almost half of all Chicaogans have received at least one dose of vaccine, she said, “there is still a long way to go,” addressing the racial imbalance.

The latest city data show more than 38% of the city’s residents who received at least one shot are white, while less than 30% are Latino and about 21% are Black. Just under 11% are Asian.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.