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County health department now using 2020 census tallies for COVID-19 vaccination rates, case counts

Cook County’s vaccination rate among Latinos dropped when layered with new 2020 census figures.

A Cook County Health Department worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination in May 2021.
A Cook County Health Department worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination in May.
Associated Press

The Cook County Department of Public Health has begun using updated 2020 census demographic data to analyze the COVID-19 vaccination rates and case counts in the county.

Since the start of the pandemic the county has relied on outdated 2010 census data to determine which communities were being affected by the pandemic and the efforts to get residents vaccinated.

The 2020 census figures, released in August, provide a more accurate insight into shifting demographics across the county over the last 10 years. Among the changes is that Latinos for the first time have surpassed Blacks as the largest racial or ethnic group in the county.

Dr. Kiran Joshi and Dr. Rachel Rubin, the county health department’s chief medical officers, explained the significance of the data in a conference call with reporters.

Joshi said layering COVID-19 statistics with the 2020 census figures will allow county health experts to determine where vaccination rates have fallen and among which racial or ethnic group

“As you can imagine there has been significant population shifts between census 2010 and census 2020 that have resulted in changes that will now be reflected to the data on our shiny app,” Joshi said. “For example, it comes as no surprise, that we’ve seen across the board an increase in the number of Latinx individuals in suburban Cook County.”

Joshi said an influx of Latino populations in some suburban areas has caused the vaccination rate to drop in some cases and rise in others. The new data allows them to target those communities thought to have high vaccination rates at one time but that now don’t.

Rubin said the overall changes were modest but does show the county’s vaccination rate in certain demographics, like with Latinos, have decreased.

The new data also show the Black population’s vaccination rate remained about the same, whereas Cook County’s white population’s vaccination rate increased. Case counts among these demographics had the similar outcomes with the new census data.

Rubin said the changes are only within 5% of the original figures but some outlier communities had larger drops.

“This certainly helps us guide our approach toward making sure our most under-vaccinated populations are correct and we know where to target our efforts,” Rubin said.

Rubin said their goal is to get at least 70% of a community’s population vaccinated with at least the first dose.

Countywide, about 70 municipalities are below that vaccination rate.