Coronavirus vaccinations

As COVID Cases Rise, Community Leaders Look to Boost Vaccination Numbers

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As coronavirus cases continue to rise both in Illinois and across the United States, the push to get vaccine holdouts to receive their vaccinations is intensifying.

In Chicago, several COVID vaccine drives were held Saturday, with the goal of getting underserved and hesitant communities access to the shots.

Rev. Walter Turner, the pastor at New Spiritual Light MB Church, was the host of one such drive on Saturday.

“The South Shore community is at the top of the list with people being affected by COVID,” he said. “We want to make sure that we raise awareness to let our community know that they need to get vaccinated.”

Long lines were seen at the event, with giveaways ranging from iPads and appliances to sports tickets and free food.

“We have probably more than $250,000 worth of items that we give away at every event,” Rev. John Harrell of Black Men United said.

Many leaders are learning that vaccine hesitancy is only a small portion of the challenge in getting unvaccinated residents to seek out the shots. A lack of trust is also to blame, according to those leaders, and both accessibility and pre-existing relationships with those offering the treatment are considered keys to overcoming obstacles.

“We are trying to do our best to step into that trust gap, and to tell parents and families that this is the best thing to do for their families and kids,” Nate Pietrini, executive director of the group High Jump, said.

David Hunt, 22, was one of many residents who got his COVID shot on Saturday. He says he did so to help protect his family, and because the shots were offered not far from his home in the Grand Crossing neighborhood.

“I just want everything to get back to normal and overall to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

Illinois recently reported more than 860 new cases of coronavirus in a single day, its highest single-day total in nearly two months. The state is hardly alone in that regard, as new weekly COVID cases have tripled in the last month nationwide, showing a new potential surge in cases that federal and state officials could soon have to cope with.

In order to curb that trend, local leaders are zeroing in on convincing the unconvinced to get their vaccine shots, with the hope of staving off additional COVID restrictions down the line.

“It hurts my heart to see our community that continues to look at the myths that are out here, the misconceptions that are out here and not learning how to save their lives,” Turner said.

In the coming weeks, similar vaccination drives are scheduled in numerous locations across Chicago. Even CTA bus and train stations will get in on the action, as leaders look to ensure that all residents have easy access to the treatments.

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