Community Center Aims To Get Asian Immigrants Vaccinated in Chicago's Chinatown

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The Pui Tak Center in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood has been vaccinating people since February, but the journey to administer those vaccines hasn’t been easy.

“The big challenges for immigrant communities during COVID was the language access,” said executive director David Wu.

At the height of the pandemic, Wu said his center was working to get information out in Chinese and Mandarin. That effort is continuing even now as the state rolls out new incentives to get people vaccinated.

“Unfortunately that doesn’t reach immigrant communities,” he said. “Still, the state vaccine lottery information is only in English.”

Wu is hoping the incentives will entice people to get the shot.

“Hopefully that will encourage the next wave to come maybe those who have been hesitant maybe the safety they see their friends and relatives getting the shot,” he said. “So maybe it’s their turn now.”

But incentive or not, Shao Shuten told NBC 5 through an interpreter in Mandarin she finally decided to get the shot to protect herself and her family.

The 58-year-old said she was getting her information through friends and social media. She was hesitant at first because the vaccine was so new. She’s the last person in her family and workplace to get the shot.

Despite the recent slow down in vaccinations, Wu said right now Asian people are getting the shot at a higher rate than any other minority group in the city.

“We were thinking that we might slow down because every vaccination clinic is seeing fewer and fewer people,” he said. “But this past Monday we saw 157 people. Today we’ll probably hit 100 as well.”

Data from the city shows 63.4% of Asian residents have already received the first dose of the vaccine followed by White at 61.4%, Latinx at 46.6%, and Black at 38.5%. Wu is hoping the city can reach President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of the population vaccinated by this weekend.

“You know the city has a long way to go,” he said. “We’re at 55%. This last 15% is harder people to reach so more community sites are needed to make it more convenient for people.”

Wu said his center through a partnership with Prism Health plans to offer vaccinations during the Chinatown Summer Fair from July 31 to Aug. 1.

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