HUMBOLDT PARK — Frustrated over the lack of vaccination sites in some majority-Latino communities, Humboldt Park elected officials and stakeholders are calling on the city to implement a comprehensive plan to inoculate residents and make the neighborhood’s hospital a vaccination hub.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), whose ward includes Humboldt Park, said there aren’t enough neighborhood sites administering vaccines. The alderman also said he’s also worried white suburban residents are booking the majority of available appointments rather than Black and Latino city residents who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
One of the ZIP codes that includes Humboldt Park, 60651, had a positivity rate of 10.2 percent for the week ending Jan. 23, compared to the city’s positivity rate of 5.4 percent during that time period.
A similar dynamic has occurred in nearby Belmont Cragin. City officials opened a testing site there in response to the high rate of infection in the neighborhood, but then the majority of residents being tested there were from Logan Square, which is predominately white.
“How can that happen?” Maldonado said. “You go to any of our surrounding Walgreens, they’re always packed with Latinos. If that is the case, how is it that they’re not promoting that more effectively so people from our community can gain access to the vaccination?”
Maldonado and other local leaders, including State Rep. Delia Ramirez, State Rep. Omar Aquino and The Puerto Rican Agenda, have drafted a four-point “vaccinate and educate” program they want the city to adopt.
In it, they demand the city roll out a comprehensive plan to inoculate Humboldt Park residents and educate them about the vaccine, as well as testing and best practices. They also want the city to make Humboldt Park Health one of its vaccination sites.
Last week, the city announced it will target 15 community areas — including Humboldt Park and Belmont Cragin — with a vaccination campaign called Protect Chicago Plus. The city plans to connect with religious groups, community organizations and leaders to educate residents about the vaccines and to sign them up for appointments.
Vaccine doses will be targeted to providers like clinics and pharmacies in those areas, and the city is setting up vaccine sites and events in those communities that will only be open to area residents, officials said.
Also at the news conference, local leaders said they are concerned about the testing rates dropping in Humboldt Park in recent weeks. Testing in the 60651 ZIP code fell by 8 percent during the week ending Jan. 23, but testing citywide also fell 7 percent during that time period, data shows.
Humboldt Park Health is testing half of the number of people it was earlier in the pandemic, hospital President Jose Sanchez said. Too often, pop-up testing sites are rolling into the neighborhood last minute, which means leaders don’t have enough time to circulate the information, Maldonado said.
Both said the decrease in testing is a sign Humboldt Park residents aren’t being educated about the dangers of COVID-19 — and the city isn’t doing enough to reach people.
“Testing needs to go beyond hospitals and clinics,” the leaders said in a news release. “We need to reach people where they are — at homes, schools, nursing and senior homes, etc., through the use of medical vans that provide faster and closer access.”
Another issue is some Humboldt Park residents are skeptical of the vaccine because there is a long legacy of medical systems abusing and neglecting communities of color in the United States, they said.
“Unfortunately, there’s reasons why there’s stigma. We have failed our communities in the past and people don’t forget about those failures,” Ramirez said.
But leaders stressed it is critical city leaders break through the barriers and vaccinate Latino families whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.
“In the last year, we have seen so many of our community members die from COVID. So many of us have a family member or nine of them who have contracted COVID,” Ramirez said.
“We have a responsibility, a moral responsibility, an urgency, to ensure these vaccines are getting to the communities that need it the most and that it is equitable.”
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