HERMOSA — Community leaders are urging city officials to prioritize Hermosa residents in its vaccination plan.
Some are frustrated the city opened a vaccination site in neighboring Belmont Cragin and did not factor Hermosa residents into the plan, even though the two neighborhoods — both hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — share a ZIP code.
“You have the resources to do outreach in Belmont Cragin. You should be doing the outreach in Hermosa. They’ve been just as hard hit by the pandemic,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who represents the southeast portion of Hermosa.
Oak Street Health opened a vaccination site at Steinmetz College Prep in Belmont Cragin earlier this month with the Chicago Department of Public Health. At the site, shots are available to anyone who lives in the Belmont Cragin community area.
The effort is part of the city’s Protect Chicago Plus campaign. The city is targeting 15 “high-need communities” to ensure people in those areas have information about vaccines and are prioritized for appointments.
The 60639 ZIP code, which includes a large portion of Belmont Cragin, has consistently been one of the hardest-hit ZIP codes in Illinois. The ZIP code includes part of Hermosa.
In opening a vaccination site in Belmont Cragin catered specifically to that community area’s residents, the city is overlooking Hermosa residents even though they’re up against many of the same challenges as their neighbors in Belmont Cragin, Ramirez-Rosa and other neighborhood leaders said. Both neighborhoods are home to many Latino immigrants and essential workers living in multi-generational homes.
“When you pass the border of Belmont Cragin into Hermosa, there’s not very much difference,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who represents the southwest portion of Hermosa.
“What we have is similar to Belmont Cragin. Hard-working men and women, mostly immigrant, who are trying to better themselves. A lot of multi-generational setups where people are trying to make ends meet.”
Ramirez-Rosa said he was “very perturbed” when Hermosa didn’t make the Protect Chicago Plus list despite the fact the neighborhood has been hit hard by the pandemic.
A similar situation is playing out on the South Side, in Brighton Park. Despite being in one the hardest-hit ZIP codes in the city and state, Brighton Park was left out of the city’s priority list.
Brighton Park leaders are calling on the city to expand its vaccination rollout plan and target 26 high-risk neighborhoods.
The priority list covers the community areas of West Englewood, New City, Gage Park, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Roseland, Archer Heights, Washington Heights, Austin, Montclare, South Deering, Belmont Cragin and Humboldt Park.
Ramirez-Rosa said he was frustrated after he learned some Hermosa residents had tried to get vaccinated at the Belmont Cragin vaccination site but were turned away.
It seems those residents were turned away in error, as all 60639 residents, no matter if they live in Belmont Cragin or Hermosa, are eligible to get vaccinated at the site, Ramirez-Rosa said. Provided they live in Belmont Cragin, residents in the 60634 and 60641 ZIP codes are also eligible, Oak Street Health spokeswoman Erica Frank said.
Still, Ramirez-Rosa said the city should’ve done more outreach in Hermosa prior to opening the site. He said his office is now working with mutual aid groups and other local organizations to fill the gap so Hermosa residents know where they can get inoculated.
Hermosa Neighborhood Association leaders are also working on a bilingual plan of their own they aim to launch in the coming weeks.
“We have a high population of individuals who have to work in locations in which they’re required to go to work,” group president and longtime Hermosa resident Rupert Medina said. “They have large families in some of these homes. They have to be able to support their families and, unfortunately, it actually means risking your life.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said while the 15 communities in the Protect Chicago Plus campaign are getting the “most intensive investments right now,” Hermosa and other high-risk communities “are also being prioritized related to how we direct vaccine.”
“This is not the one and only chance to be able to get vaccine,” Arwady said during a news conference this week. “We will keep pushing vaccine to parts of the city where we see lower vaccine uptake rates.”
The city chose the 15 community areas by analyzing which had the highest need based on a variety of factors, including how many essential workers live in the area; how many people live in multi-family households; the age, income level and insurance status of people living there; and how many COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported.
Because vaccine supply is still very limited, the city limited the community areas in the Protect Chicago Plus program to 15. Hermosa just missed the cut, as it ranked as No. 17 on the city’s list of communities most vulnerable to the pandemic.
The Protect Chicago Plus plan was launched after data showed a lag in coronavirus vaccinations among Black and Latino communities during Phase 1A of the vaccination campaign, which focused on health care workers.
As Chicago gets more doses from the federal government in the coming weeks, Hermosa leaders want to ensure the neighborhood benefits.
“It’s extremely important local government not look over this community,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
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