As COVID-19 vaccine distribution ramps up across the country and some communities enter phase 1b, infectious disease experts are looking for effective ways to connect with a key group: people who have reservations about taking the vaccine.
From noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Rush University Medical Center partnered with area faith leaders, community partners and the Chicago Department of Public Health to help foster confidence in the vaccine, with a special vaccination event.
“While the concerns about the vaccine are not surprising given the history of Black and brown mistreatment — including by some in health care — in the name of medical science, it’s essential that we reach all communities in the effort to achieve herd immunity,” says David Ansell, MD, MPH, senior vice president for community health equity for Rush University Medical Center and associate provost for community affairs for Rush University. “This group of faith leaders and community leaders has expressed a willingness to move beyond their concerns and lead by example by receiving their first dose at our vaccination clinic.”
At 11:15 a.m., a group of approximately 100 people from across the community gathered for a socially distanced event in the Room 500 of the Rush Professional Office Building to demonstrate community support and confidence in the vaccine.
“The vaccine is safe, and it can end the pandemic if we all vaccine,” Geraldine Luna, MD, MPH, medical director, COVID-19 response, CDPH said at the event. “It will take some time to get everyone vaccinated, so we ask for your patience. … In the meanwhile, let’s get prepared by knowing the facts and the benefits of protecting yourself and the people you love. This vaccine is for everyone, and it is free.”
The multidenominational effort included faith leaders from across many religions, as well as key community leaders.
“It’s critical that our Black and Latinx community members get access to vetted, credible information and education about the vaccine,” says Darlene Hightower, vice president for community health equity. “We also understand that representation matters, and getting this information from trusted community partners can go a long way in helping community members make the best decisions to support themselves and their loved ones and help us all work together to end this pandemic.”
The event began with prayer and remarks from leaders about how to encourage vaccinations, while being respectful of individual concerns. Fact sheets outlining COVID-19 myths vs. reality were shared with faith leaders to be used within their respective congregations. Following the event, pre-registered attendees received their first dose, in accordance with CDPH expectations and guidelines.
“Widespread vaccination represents faith and hope that we can turn the corner from this pandemic soon,” says Rev. Marshall Hatch of the Leaders Network and senior pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. “As clergy step forward to be vaccinated today, we demonstrate that faith leaders are hope leaders as well.”
“Dios ha respondido a nuestras oraciones. Ha llegado la medicina. Es hora de vacunarse. No estaremos seguros hasta que todos estemos vacunados,” says Emma Lozano, pastora of Lincoln Methodist Church in Pilsen. Translation: “God has answered our prayers — the medicine has arrived. Time for all of us to take the vaccine. We’re not safe until we are all vaccinated.”
More information about vaccinations at Rush can be found here.