The City of Chicago held a Multicultural Media Townhall on May 26 to give the latest City updates on the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).
The moderator was Brandon Pope, a journalist for WCIU-TV. Panelists were Geraldine Luna, MD, and Candice Robinson, MD, medical directors at the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot began the townhall by stating that that the City is trying to increase the vaccination rates for Black and Latinx people, and that the vaccine is safe, free, and available.
Luna noted that the positivity rate for coronavirus in the City is a low 3%, but higher for the Black and Latinx communities because of the vaccination disparity.
Robinson noted there were multiple reasons for the disparity. “Historically, there is a lack of access to healthcare in Black and Latinx communities, and economic disparities as well,” she said.
Pope asked about the concept of “herd immunity,” and what percentage of the Chicago population needed to be vaccinated to achieve it. Luna replied that while there is no “magic number,” she noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has stated it should be 70% to 80%.
Luna explained that “herd immunity is achieved when enough people are vaccinated so that those who are not are relatively safe. The more vaccinated we get, particularly in West Side and South Side communities, the better we can control the virus.”
Robinson noted that it is a myth that “if you’re young and healthy, or eat healthy, that you don’t need the vaccine. Young and healthy does not protect you. You don’t know how COVID will affect you if you don’t get the vaccine.”
Luna noted that overall, vaccines have been administered for long enough now for medical professionals to see that there generally are “no long-term” side effects.
Pope said there is some skepticism about the vaccine because “people don’t know what’s in it. But as Chris Rock said, ‘I don’t know what’s in my Fruit Loops but I still eat them.’”
The vaccine “teaches our bodies how to make a ‘spike’ on a virus, so if you are exposed to COVID, your body can recognize the ‘spikes’ on the COVID virus and say, ‘Hey, I recognize that, and that’s not supposed to be here,’” Robinson explained.
After people receive their second dose of vaccines, they are 95% effective, Luna said. She also noted that 98% of Chicago’s COVID cases have “happened in unvaccinated individuals.”
For those concerned about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because in April the Federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control temporarily halted its use, Robinson explained that that was because there were “15 cases of blood clotting out of 8 million,” so the vaccine is safe.
City personnel at this point are going door to door, sending out mobile units, and going to community events to administer vaccines, Luna said, adding that “anybody 65 and over can get their shot at home. We’ll come out, and we’ll vaccinate your whole family. People can even choose the brand of vaccine they want. Call us!”
The number is (312) 746-4835. “And actual people pick up the phone; it’s not a recording,” she said, adding that no ID and no evidence of residency is required.
“Success is us bringing vaccine to your community through church events and pop-up clinics,” Luna added.
“The vaccine is available at no cost, regardless of immigration status,” Robinson said.
Luna noted that the City is setting up vaccination sites at events such as Lollapalooza. Robinson said the city is working on incentives for people who are vaccinated. “Stay tuned to social media for incentives so we can get everyone vaccinated,” Robinson said.
Those who have had COVID and recovered need vaccinations too, Robinson said. “We don’t know how long the antibodies your body created will last,” she explained. With the vaccine, you can maintain that immunity.”
“There are five COVID varieties, Luna said. “The vaccine protects you against all five.”
For the latest information on coronavirus and vaccination, log on to Chicago.gov/covidvax, or call (312) 746-4835.
—William S. Bike