A Protect Chicago Plus vaccine site. Credit: Chicago Mayor's Office

CHICAGO — Have vaccine skeptics in your life? You can now take a course to learn how to ease their concerns.

As supply outpaces demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, public health officials are desperate to persuade more people to get the shots — and messaging from the government and celebrities doesn’t seem to be working.

To combat this issue, City Colleges of Chicago and the Department of Public Health are offering free courses to educate the public on these vaccines and how to talk to loved ones about them.

“When it comes to discussions about COVID-19 and vaccines, Chicagoans trust those they know best more than any celebrity or outside authorities,” said Dr. Alison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “There is so much misinformation out there, and some people are reluctant and just want their concerns addressed.”

The Vaccine Ambassador Course will offer free training, empowering people to “become trusted vaccine education ambassadors in their communities.” You can sign up for the two-hour online course here, with options in English and Spanish.

The course will cover the following topics:

  • Background on COVID-19 and the U.S. healthcare system
  • History of mistrust and the root causes of vaccine hesitancy
  • Answers to the most frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions
  • How to approach difficult vaccine conversations

Getting people vaccinated is still the best bet for ending the pandemic, officials have said. More people getting vaccinated reduces chances for variants of COVID-19 to develop and spread, which would endanger people and pose a threat to reopening efforts.

“The quickest way for life to return to normal is for more people to get vaccinated,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Monday.

Everyone 16 and older is now eligible for vaccinations in Illinois. But the vast majority of Illinoisans are not fully vaccinated: Only about 4.5 million people — or 34.42 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccination shots.

There’s still a high risk for spreading COVID-19 among unvaccinated people. Vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death.

“There is so much information out there about the COVID-19 vaccine, we thought it imperative to help people separate fact from fiction,” David Sanders, president of Malcolm X College, said in a statement. “People are more likely to listen to their friends and neighbors and that is why developing a local ambassador program is so important. We are providing Vaccine Ambassadors with vaccine education so they can share the facts and save lives.”

Those who finish the course will receive a certificate of completion and be invited to an online learning community. People who have already signed up to be contact tracers earlier in the pandemic will be involved as well, Arwady said.

“The more quickly we are all vaccinated, the sooner we can move forward as a city and a region,” said Carlos Millan, a contact tracer supervisor and vaccine ambassador. “When there’s an opportunity for everyone to go out and get the vaccine, they should definitely get it.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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