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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Have Questions About The Coronavirus Vaccine? Ask Away At West Side Hospital’s Virtual Town Hall

A panel will answer questions about the vaccine trials and empower residents with the information they need to make a decision on getting vaccinated.

Dr. Allison Arwady, right, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks as Deatra Howard, chief nursing officer at Loretto Hospital, gives the COVID-19 vaccine to Jermilla Hill, a patient care technician also at Loretto Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.
(Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune/Pool)
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AUSTIN — As Loretto Hospital prepares to launch trials for coronavirus vaccines, hospital leaders will host a virtual town hall to answer community concerns about the vaccines.

The town hall will be streamed live on the hospital’s Facebook page 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The forum will feature a panel with Dr. Lois Clarke, Loretto’s medical director of research; Dr. Shilpa Pulluru, the hospital’s clinical research liaison; and Dr. Ali Ahmed, president of Affinity Health, Loretto’s clinical research partner for the vaccine trials.

Organizers aim to open a discussion about the safety of the vaccines, the benefits of getting involved in the trials and who can participate.

“We understand and respect the historical reticence among some community members to participate in clinical trials,” Clarke said. “We are looking to this event as an opportunity to empower each individual with the facts he or she needs to make a personal, informed decision.”

With many West Side residents skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, Loretto has been working to build trust by encouraging participation in the testing and rolling out of vaccines.

It is especially important for Black and Latino residents on the West Side to participate in the trials so researchers can know if the vaccine is effective across different populations, particularly those hit hardest by the pandemic, Clarke has said.

About 38 percent of Chicagoans who have died from COVID-19 were Black and 34 percent Latino. But only 15 percent of participants in early vaccine trials were non-white, Clarke said.

“Even if everyone’s immune system reacts the same way to the virus, we know that people of color may respond differently to the infection and vaccine based on differences in overall health and underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or emphysema,” Clarke said.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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