coronavirus illinois

Chicago Prioritizes COVID Vaccine Access for Homeless, Those in Congregant Living Settings

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City health officials are working to ensure equitable access to the coronavirus vaccine, and part of that strategy is to prioritize vaccinations for homeless Chicagoans.

“I’m so pleased to be receiving my second dose of the COVID vaccine,” Constance Foster, a resident at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, said.

Foster was one of 170 residents and staff at the mission who received their second doses of the vaccine on Tuesday, part of the city’s effort to ensure that those individuals who live and work in congregant settings can get access to the treatment as soon as possible.

According to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, more than 2,000 doses of the vaccine have been given to homeless shelters during the pandemic, an important part of the more than half-million COVID vaccine doses administered throughout the city. “Long term care facilities or homeless shelters where we’re at, where we’ve disproportionally seen a lot of cases, we know it’s hard to always have all of the distancing and all of those things in place,” she said.

 “We are so grateful to CDPH for providing these vaccines. Prioritizing people experiencing homelessness and prioritizing people in Black and Brown communities is critical,” Dr. Alex Porte, a physician at the mission, added.

CDPH says that part of its push to help ensure equitable access to the vaccine is ensuring that it prioritizes vaccine doses for communities that lack primary care and health insurance.

 “It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because getting a higher, an equitable amount of vaccine into our hardest hit areas in Chicago in turn helps protect everybody in Chicago,” Arwady said.

Arwady says that push is even more critical now, with the city making significant gains in terms of curbing new cases and pushing down positivity rates. The city’s positivity rate is now at 3.2%, the lowest it’s been since the virus was first detected in Chicago.

 “Our goal in those settings is to make sure we can continue to direct vaccine there until we see those communities at vaccination rates that are at or above the city average for vaccine,” she said.

While the big picture implications of the city’s focus on vaccinating vulnerable populations is a critical part of the strategy involved, homeless individuals like Foster just feel great knowing that they are now protected against a potentially deadly disease.

 “Now that I have been vaccinated, I feel safer,” she said.

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