As Chicago tackles vaccine hesitancy, religious leaders step in – CBS Chicago
CHICAGO (CBS) – During a pandemic in Chicago, the supply of vaccines against the coronavirus now meets demand.
“At the moment, we have enough vaccines,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health last Thursday.
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But now there is another problem.
“Demand has really softened – stabilized,” Arwady said.
Over the past week, there has been a marked change in tone across the board when it comes to vaccine appointments – and not just in the city.
Will County has practically begged people online to come to their immunization clinic on Saturday so they don’t have to throw away doses.
Many open spots were also available online the next day.
Dressed in his finest Sunday, Reverend Marvin Hunter signaled the lack of queues at the United Center vaccination site as he stood in front of him.
“I see people have taken an absolute reversal in terms of willingness to get vaccinated due to the accident with the Johnson & Johnson product,” Hunter said.
He said he always responds to calls from members of his church with questions.
“They were in absolute panic, scared,” Hunter said. “We worked so hard to make people feel confident taking the vaccine.”
It was two steps forward, three steps back.
Between the two celebrations, Hunter spent weeks leading conversations about vaccinations with his congregation.
“So I tell you all, go find a place to have this photo taken,” he told his followers on Facebook on March 19.
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Hunter told Parra, “There was always a bit of hesitation within the African American community. It didn’t help.
Recent studies show that the current reluctance to immunize extends to all racial groups, with white conservative evangelicals making up a large percentage. According to a late February Pew Research Center study45 percent of white evangelical adults surveyed said they did not want the vaccine.
Even the historically conservative Evangelical Reverend Franklin Graham has made efforts to combat disinformation and skepticism within the community – add in part to a long Facebook post, “I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and drugs to treat suffering and save lives.”
And when it comes to vaccine reluctance, religious leaders could prove essential.
“A lot of times the sources of information come directly from the pastor and that’s the only information they get,” Hunter said.
Here in Chicago, Reverend Ira Acree hosted a vaccine drive Sunday at his West Side Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., Sunday.
On April 17, Pastor Hunter co-hosted a vaccination campaign in K-Town at his Grace Memorial Baptist Church, 1457 S. Kenneth Ave.
But the most important thing, he said, was to lead by example. He noted to his followers on Facebook that he and his wife took the photo and that they were fine.
“I took it. I was the example. Then I talked about it,” Hunter said. “People saw that and they actually verbalized it, ‘Well, pastor, since you took it and I see you and the first lady, my wife, are fine, so we’ll try. ‘”
He added that building confidence and tackling vaccine misinformation is a very practical task.
“Anyone who can help eradicate this pandemic must help,” Hunter said.
About half of the state and city have rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine. To achieve herd immunity, experts predict that we need between 70 and 80 percent of the population to get vaccinated first.
To find vaccine appointments near you in Chicago, ZocDoc.com is useful if you are familiar with the web. But you can also call (312) 746-4835 for the CRPD COVID-19 vaccine call center if you’d prefer to schedule over the phone instead.
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For more information on finding a vaccine, click here. For more information on the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in our region, vaccine tracker.